Powell Tate aids Papa John's amid workplace audit

The pizza chain has been under intense scrutiny following the resignation of its founder for using a racial epithet.

LOUISVILLE, KY: Papa John’s has hired Powell Tate for communications support as the company audits its workplace culture.

The pizza chain has been embroiled in controversy since it was revealed that founder and former chairman John Schnatter used a racial epithet on a media training conference call with marketing agency Laundry Service. Schnatter resigned as the company’s chairman last week.

Papa John’s said on Tuesday that a special committee of its directors has named law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld to oversee an audit of the company.

"Powell Tate is working closely with a team of advisers, including Akin Gump, who are assisting Papa John’s as it takes the necessary steps to address the issues raised by recent events and move the company in a positive direction," an agency spokesperson said, via email. "We are providing counsel and support to Papa John’s senior management to help them deliver on their commitment to take deliberate and meaningful action to improve its corporate culture."

"We began working with Powell Tate this month to help determine the best path forward for the company and its culture during this challenging time," a company spokesperson said, via email.

At least four agencies have parted ways with Papa John’s since Forbes revealed details of Schnatter’s use of the racial slur, including Laundry Service, PR firm Olson Engage, creative shop Fallon, and, most recently, media agency Initiative.

Initiative wasn’t immediately available for comment.

There are contradictory accounts of how Papa John’s and Laundry Service parted ways. Schnatter has said Papa John’s fired the agency in May. However, Forbes has reported that Laundry Service chairman and CEO Casey Wasserman moved to resign the account.

Schnatter hired Sitrick and Company last weekend for crisis communications support. Agency founder and CEO Mike Sitrick helped to handle a crisis for Schnatter in 2012 after the then-CEO of Papa John’s said franchises could cut employee hours in response to the Affordable Care Act, drawing unwanted media attention.

This story was updated on July 23 with comment from a Papa John's spokesperson.

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