Papa John’s founder out of mar­ket­ing

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Business - BY CANDICE CHOI As­so­ci­ated Press

Papa John’s, which has fea­tured founder John Sch­nat­ter as the face of the com­pany in lo­gos and TV ads, is pulling his im­age from its mar­ket­ing af­ter re­ports he used a racial slur.

His face was off at least some ma­te­ri­als by late morn­ing Fri­day, though the com­pany said the de­tails and ex­act tim­ing for ev­ery­thing were still be­ing worked out. The pizza chain said there are no plans to change its name.

Sch­nat­ter is still on the board and is the com­pany’s largest share­holder – mean­ing he re­mains a key pres­ence. Papa John’s has ac­knowl­edged in reg­u­la­tory fil­ings that Sch­nat­ter’s pub­lic role as its pitch­man could be a li­a­bil­ity if his rep­u­ta­tion was dam­aged. The com­pany got a taste of that last year, when Sch­nat­ter stepped down as CEO af­ter blam­ing dis­ap­point­ing pizza sales on the out­cry sur­round­ing foot­ball play­ers kneel­ing dur­ing the na­tional an­them.

This week, Papa John’s was al­ready try­ing to further pub­licly dis­tance it­self from Sch­nat­ter af­ter Forbes re­ported he used the N-word dur­ing a con- fer­ence call in May. Sch­nat­ter apol­o­gized and said he would re­sign as chair­man. That prompted the com­pany’s stock to re­cover some of the losses it suf­fered af­ter the re­port, and shares were up less than 1 per­cent Fri­day. Sch­nat­ter owns nearly 30 per­cent of the stock.

In ad­di­tion to ap­pear­ing in TV ads, Sch­nat­ter’s im­age has been on pack­ag­ing and at the cen­ter of a logo that usu­ally was all over the web­site of the Louisville, Ky.-based com­pany.

Keith Hollingsworth, a pro­fes­sor with More­house Col­lege’s busi­ness de­part­ment, said keep­ing Sch­nat­ter in the mar­ket­ing and ad­ver­tis­ing would sig­nal to peo­ple that the com­pany does not have a prob­lem with his com­ments, or that it doesn’t think they are a big deal.

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