The founder and chairman and Pizza chain Papa John’s has resigned hours after being forced to apologise for using a racial slur during a conference call in May.
The Forbes news site reported that John Schnatter used the N-word during a media training exercise. When asked how he would distance himself from racist groups, Schnatter reportedly complained that Colonel Sanders, the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, never faced a backlash for using the word.
In a statement released by Kentucky-based Papa John’s, Schnatter said reports attributing use of “inappropriate and hurtful” language to him were true. “Regardless of the context, I apologise,” the statement said.
The company said Olivia Kirtley would act as lead independent director, and added it would appoint a new chairman in the coming week.
“Papa John’s condemns racism and any insensitive language, no matter the situation or setting ... We take great pride in the diversity of the Papa John’s family, though diversity and inclusion is an area we will continue to strive to do better,” the company said in a separate statement.
Schnatter, who founded the company in 1984, resigned as chief executive in December last year, after blaming slowing sales growth on the outcry surrounding football players kneeling during the national anthem. He remains chairman of the company he started when he turned a broom closet at his father’s bar into a pizza spot.
Yum Brands Inc’s Pizza Hut replaced Papa John’s as NFL’s sponsor in February, ending Papa John’s eight-year relationship with the top US football league.
Papa John’s shares closed nearly 5% down at $48.33 on Wednesday.