John Schnatter posts open letter on new website

John Schnatter reaches out to Papa John's employees through new website

LOUISVILLE. KY (WAVE) - Papa John's founder is sending a message to his former employees after stepping down as chairman of the company.

John Schnatter launched a new website, savepapajohns.com, where he expresses his love for the company, employees and customers.

In an open letter on the site, he said the board will not let him talk to those employees, and that the website is his way of doing so.

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He also said he does not want his image or likeness removed from buildings or other Papa John's assets.

Schnatter stepped down as chairman in July over the admitted use of a racial slur during a conference call, but said he was taken out of context.

Wednesday, a spokesman for the company shared a statement from the pizza giant:

"We are not, nor should we be, dependent on one person. Papa John's is 120,000 corporate and franchisee team members around the world. Stakeholders, including customers, franchisees, employees, and investors, have expressed strong support for the actions we have taken to separate our brand from Mr. Schnatter. No matter what John does, he will not be able to distract from the inappropriate comments he made. We appreciate this support and are confident we are taking the right steps to move the company forward."

Dan Hartlage, the Principal of Guthrie Mayes Public Relations, said he's never seen such a public back and forth between a founder and a company.

He hopes there's a period when both sides can lay low and rebuild trust with customers.

Hartlage told WAVE 3 News that happened in the case of other companies going through controversy, like Subway and Facebook.

"There are lots of employees and franchisees (of Papa John's)," Hartlage said. "And all of those people are just trying to get up in the morning and go to work and they're sort of like kids caught up in a really, really messy divorce."

He said it's important to the Louisville community that the company rebounds and gets back to what it does best -- making pizza.

"The company employs some 1,200 people in this town, over 100,000 nationally not to mention internationally," Hartlage said. "It's very important to the community as I see it, that they do continue to make and sell pizzas."

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