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Papa John's founder John Schnatter resigns as chairman of board after using racial slur

Papa John's founder resigns
Papa John's founder John Schnatter resigns after using racial slur 00:41

Papa John's Pizza's founder John Schnatter may have resigned as chairman of the restaurant chain's board of directors following news that he used a racial slur in a conference call, but he still owns a substantial stake in the company.

Schnatter owns roughly 30 percent of Papa John's. As of March 12, his stake was worth $622 million, though a recent decline in the company's stock price now values it at $479 million as of the close of trading on Wednesday. 

Other major stockholders include asset management firm BlackRock, with a 9 percent stake; hedge fund Eminence Capital (6.5 percent); and investment advsier Vanguard (6 percent). 

Schnatter resigned as chairman on Wednesday amid a growing uproar about his comments, but he will remain on the board. Papa John's shares, which fell nearly 5 percent on Wednesday, were up 12 percent on Thursday. 

Schnatter, long the face of Papa John's through his TV commercials, acknowledged using a racial slur during a May conference call. He also apologized following a media report that said he had graphically described violence against minorities.

"News reports attributing the use of inappropriate and hurtful language to me during a media-training session regarding race are true," Schnatter said in a statement released Wednesday by the company. 

"Regardless of the context, I apologize. Simply stated, racism has no place in our society," Schnatter's statement said. 

The media-training company working with Papa John's opted to end its business relationship with the pizza company after the call, according to Forbes. The publication reported the objectionable behavior took place on a conference call intended as a role-playing exercise for Schnatter on avoiding racially charged mishaps in the future.

Papa John's initially declined to confirm or deny the report, but said in an emailed statement that the company "condemns racism and any insensitive language, no matter the situation or setting."

The controversy comes only seven months after Schnatter relinquished his CEO role after criticizing National Football League players for kneeling during the national anthem, blaming the outcry surrounding their protests for slowing sales growth at Papa John's, at the time an NFL sponsor and advertiser.

On the May call, Schnatter reportedly said the N-word while complaining that a legendary fast-food chain founder had used the word in the past without being subjected to public backlash. He also reflected on his childhood in Indiana, saying people used to drag African-Americans from trucks until they died, according to Forbes.

The Forbes report prompted protest from the Louisville NAACP, which said Schnatter should either step down or be removed from the University of Louisville's board of trustees by the city's NAACP. 

The request was complied with quickly, as Schnatter did resign from the board he'd served on for two years, its chairman, J. David Grissom, said in a statement, which also thanked the executive for his "generous" support.

"After speaking with John, I'm confident that his comments, while inappropriate, do not reflect his personal beliefs or values," said Grissom, who added the board did not condone "racism or insensitive language regardless of the setting." 

On Thursday, Major League Baseball indefinitely suspended its Papa Slam promotion, CNBC and Yahoo Sports reported. The Miami Marlins is also ending its Papa John's promotions, the team said on Twitter

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