John Schnatter, the disgraced founder of pizza chain Papa John’s, has launched legal action against advertising firm Laundry Service and its parent Wasserman Media, in an attempt to clear his name after being forced to resign from the company over his use of the ‘N’ word.
Schnatter contends that the May 2018 exchange, preserved in a secretly recorded conversation, documented his criticism of a third party over their use of the racial slur and was taken out of context by the ad firm as part of a dispute over $6m in unpaid fees.
When the recording surfaced, Schnatter was forced to resign when the conversation became public in a dramaticfall from grace which Schnatter asserts was a public smear campaign orchestrated by Wasserman Media head, Casey Wassermann.
The lawsuit states that Wasserman threatened Papa John’s chief executive officer at the time to ‘bury the founder’ if the monies owed were not forthcoming.
A copy of the action obtained by Bloomberg which asserts that the ‘Defendants’ intentional and/or reckless leak of information from the call’ was intended to ‘extract retribution’.
Wasserman has declined to comment on the allegations.
Papa John's continues to press ahead with its post-Schnatter marketing strategy with its UK arm further diverging from the global business.