Papa John's Founder Files Lawsuit Against Ad Firm "Laundry Service"

Business Icon says agency owner threatened to "bury the founder"

Schnatter pledges to contribute net proceeds from any judgment to charity

LOUISVILLE, Ky., Dec. 5, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, John Schnatter, the iconic founder and former brand spokesman for Papa John's International, announced the filing of a lawsuit in Louisville, Kentucky against the creative advertising firm, Laundry Service, and its parent company, Wasserman Media. The claims stem from a secretly-taped meeting led by Laundry Service in May 2018, some details of which appeared in a salacious news story in Forbes falsely reporting that Mr. Schnatter used a racial slur against African Americans.

In truth, during the conference call, Mr. Schnatter actually expressed his disdain for racism and criticized a well-known figure who reportedly used racial slurs. The recording of the call proves Schnatter said that he himself "never used that word," which contrasts sharply with the false narrative reported in Forbes.

The complaint also highlights a commercial dispute between Laundry Service and Papa John's International in which Casey Wasserman, the CEO of Laundry Service's parent company, told Papa John's then-CEO Steve Ritchie that he would "bury the founder" if Laundry Service was not paid $6 million. Subsequently, excerpts from the conference call with Laundry Service were leaked to Forbes.

The suit filed in court today seeks unspecified damages for three counts, including Breach of Contract, Tortious Interference with Prospective Economic Advantage, and Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress.  Mr. Schnatter has pledged to contribute all net proceeds from this lawsuit to charity.

"Today, I've taken a major step forward in search of the truth of what happened that caused me to lose my company, which resulted in thousands of franchisees and employees suffering from the economic fallout," said Mr. Schnatter. "The facts will show that my words were taken out of context and used to manufacture a scandal against me based on a completely false narrative," he said.

"John Schnatter looks forward to a true, open accounting of what happened," said Terence Healy, counsel for Mr. Schnatter. "Fortunately for John, this call was recorded. We encourage people to read the complaint and look at what John actually said."

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