Two years ago John Schnatter fancied himself untouchable. He was CEO of Papa John’s, the nationwide pizza chain he founded, and served as its ubiquitous TV pitchman. The business had grown to 5,000 stores and $1.7 billion in revenue, and his fortune tallied some $950 million. “We see news story after news story of CEOs who run companies into the ground,” Schnatter scoffed in his 2016 autobiography, which chronicled the business’ rise.
Then Schnatter began to do exactly that. The world already knows of his two biggest flare-ups. Last November, he criticized the NFL’s handling of national anthem protests, calling the whole affair a “debacle.” Papa John’s shares crashed 11% in hours and kept falling, Schnatter lost his CEO title and franchise sales dropped an estimated 5% or more. Then, in July, while reporting this story, Forbes learned that Schnatter had used the N-word and made other controversial remarks on a conference call two months prior… But the problems run far deeper. Based on interviews with 37 current and former Papa John’s employees—including numerous executives and board members—Schnatter’s alleged behavior ranges from spying on his workers to sexually inappropriate conduct, which has resulted in at least two confidential settlements.
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