Papa John's Founder Resigns as Chairman After Using Racial Slur

Papa John's founder John Schnatter in 2015.

Papa John’s founder John Schnatter in 2015.


Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Papa John’s International

PZZA -4.84%

said late Wednesday that its independent directors have accepted the resignation of

John Schnatter

as board chairman, after a report that he used a racial slur in a conference call.

In a news release, the company said Olivia Kirtley will serve as lead independent director. Papa John’s will appoint a new chairman in the coming weeks.

The Papa John’s founder also resigned from the University of Louisville board of trustees Wednesday following a report in Forbes that he used the N-word and made other remarks deemed offensive in a May conference call.

Mr. Schnatter, a longtime university supporter who joined the board in January 2017, tendered his resignation, board Chairman

J. David Grissom

said. His term was slated to expire in 2022.

“After speaking with John, I’m confident that his comments, while inappropriate, do not reflect his personal beliefs or values,” Mr. Grissom said in a statement. “No member of the board of trustees condones racism or insensitive language regardless of the setting.”

In a statement issued earlier on Wednesday, Mr. Schnatter apologized for his actions.

Mr. Schnatter stepped down as chief executive of Louisville, Ky.-based Papa John’s last year over his remarks on football players taking a knee during the national anthem.

Mr. Schnatter founded Papa John’s in 1984 and turned it into a 3,400-unit chain in North America, with a further 1,600 outlets overseas. He stepped down as CEO once before, in 2005, after a multiyear sales slump and returned three years later after product quality began to slip, the company said. In 2010, he shared the CEO job with another executive, before assuming the sole CEO position again a year later.

Appeared in the July 12, 2018, print edition as ‘Papa John’s Founder Quits After Racial Slur.’