LOUISVILLE, KY: Ousted Papa John’s chairman John Schnatter has hired Sitrick and Company.
CEO and founder Mike Sitrick confirmed his agency was hired via email with PRWeek. He wasn’t immediately available to provide further comment.
A source familiar with the matter said the agency was hired last weekend.
Terry Fahn, a Sitrick attorney, is working with Schnatter and his attorney Patricia Glaser, according to a Louisville Courier-Journal story.
Previously, Sitrick and Company represented Schnatter in late 2012, according to a Fortune story. Schnatter, then-CEO of Papa John’s, made a faux pas about Obamacare in the lead-up to the presidential election.
After being questioned about how Obamacare could affect workers’ hours by a reporter, Schnatter said franchises could cut employee hours. Headlines about the exchange left the impression Schnatter himself would pull back on hours in response to Obamacare.
At that time, Schnatter turned to Sitrick who unleashed a PR "counteroffensive," the Fortune story said. Sitrick billed his clients $895 an hour.
Schnatter, who founded Papa John’s, resigned as chair last week when it came to light that he used a racial slur during a "diversity media training" exercise with creative AOR Laundry Service in May. This week, in a letter to the board, Schnatter said it was a mistake to step down. In the letter, he claimed the board failed to investigate the matter.
The missive recounted Schnatter’s version of the events, adding new details to a story that has plunged the company into controversy and caused PR shop Olson Engage and creative agency Fallon to resign their accounts.
According to the letter, Laundry Service recommended Papa John’s hire Kanye West as his co-spokesperson. Schnatter wrote that he rejected the proposal because West uses the n-word in his lyrics.
However, Schnatter admitted to using the n-word when comparing himself and his company to Colonel Sanders. He said in the letter that he never used it as a "racial epithet." Forbes, which broke the story last Wednesday, doesn’t appear to claim he used it that way.
Despite Forbes’ report that said Casey Wasserman, chair and CEO of Laundry Service, moved to terminate its contract with Papa John’s, Schnatter said the company fired them on May 23 and their last day was July 2.
Also, in the letter, Schnatter repeated his claim that Laundry Service extorted Papa John’s. The pizza company owed them $1.3 million, which it agreed to pay. But Laundry Service allegedly demanded an additional $6 million "because they claimed some of their people had been offended by what [Schnatter] said," his letter said.
Schnatter said one of the agency’s attorneys threatened to "conduct a smear campaign" unless their demands were met. Ultimately, Papa John’s offered Laundry Service a total of $2.5 million.
"I am confident that an examination of the facts will bear what I have written in this letter and show that once again our company has demonstrated that it does not know how to handle a crisis based on misinformation," Schnatter concluded. "I will not allow either my good name or the good name of the company I founded and love to be unfairly tainted."
Prior to this incident, Schnatter drew fire for blaming the NFL’s handling of the National Anthem protests for poor sales in Q3 of 2017. The NFL replaced Papa John’s with Pizza Hut as its official pizza sponsor in February.