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Papa John's exiled founder blames new CEO for "rot at the top"

"Papa John" suing Papa John's

John Schnatter may be blocked from Papa John's headquarters, but he's still banging on the doors.

The latest missive by the founder of the world's biggest pizza chain is directed at current Papa John CEO Steve Ritchie, who Schnatter contends is to blame for many things, including his ouster as chairman and the company's declining sales.

In a letter addressed to franchisees and published on his new site, SavePapaJohn's.com, Schnatter contends he's taking the fall for Ritchie's mistakes and that Ritchie orchestrated his ouster after learning the board and Schnatter were talking about removing him in June. 

In Schnatter's telling, the company's board agreed with him that Ritchie was performing poorly, and it asked him to become executive chairman. Then, when Schnatter readied a list of senior management heads to roll, including Richie's, the current CEO got wind of it and orchestrated Schnatter's ouster instead.

"The source of the company's poor performance is rot at the top," wrote Schnatter. "Right now, he's blaming me," he added.

"Once again, John Schnatter is making untrue and disparaging statements in a self-serving attempt to distract from the damaging impact his own words and actions have had on the company and our stakeholders," a spokesperson for Papa John's emailed. "At no time has the board asked John Schnatter to become executive chairman. In fact, the company has taken multiple steps to separate itself from him."  

Schnatter stepped down as chairman last month after admitting to using a racial slur during a conference call in May. He remains a board member, however, and now regrets resigning, saying his words had been taken out of context.

Schnatter had departed the CEO slot months earlier after drawing controversy by criticizing National Football League players for kneeling during the national anthem. 

The company's board in July adopted a "poison pill" intended to prevent Schnatter from adding to his roughly 30 percent stake in Papa John's and garnering a majority hold. 

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