Papa John's founder John Schnatter officially files lawsuit against his own company

Papa John's founder John Schnatter officially files lawsuit against his own company

It can't always easy being the public face of your own company. Not all CEOs are built for the limelight, and for every Richard Branson, Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg you have a Satya Nadella or Sundar Pichai (extra points if you can tell me which companies they helm without looking it up). In that former category you have John "Papa John" Schnatter, who's had what you might call a "less than ideal" year or so with the company he founded, Papa John's.

For a long time, Papa John's has been synonymous with the phrase "wait, so this isn't Domino's or Pizza Hut?!", but in recent times, Schnatter's been under fire, after clashing with the NFL and very briefly getting his company christened as the "official pizza of the alt-right". Earlier this month, he was forced to resign from his role as CEO after a voicemail surfaced wherein Schnatter used a racial slur on a conference call.

But now, Papa John is striking back. Schnatter is taking his own company to court over documents related to his swift and controversial exit from the pizza chain's boardroom. In the words of his attorneys, Schnatter is "seeking to inspect Company documents because of the unexplained and heavy-handed way in which the Company has treated him since the publication of a story that falsely accused him of using a racial slur".

"Rather than address the real issues like the health of the business, the company is hiding documents that, we believe, will disclose the actual facts as to what is occurring here, including using Mr Schnatter as a scapegoat to cover up their own shortcomings and failures."

In the conference call that proved to be Schnatter's last, the Papa John's founder was reportedly in the middle of a public relations exercise, designed to avoid similar debacles as the NFL issue that cast a shadow over the back end of the company's 2017. When he was asked how he would deal with racist groups in the future, Schnatter reportedly cited Colonel Sanders, the founder of KFC, saying he never got in trouble for using the N-Word.

For their part in all of this, Papa John's have refuted Schnatter's claims, saying that they're "saddened and disappointed" with their former CEO, saying the decision to take the company to court is a "needless and wasteful lawsuit in an attempt to distract from his own words and actions".

"We will not let his numerous mis-statements in the complaint and elsewhere distract us from the important work we are doing to move the business forward for our 120,000 corporate and franchise team members, and our franchisees, customers and stakeholders."

With 4,900 restaurants worldwide and a steady reputation as the third-best pizza company in the world, the effort to scrub Schnatter from the company's overall ethos may prove to be a long process. Papa John's have already confirmed that Schnatter's image will be removed from all the company branding.