The Ringer dives into the bizarre rise and fall of the disgraced Papa John’s founder.
1851 has been tracking the increasingly bizarre developments in John Schnatter’s public feud with Papa John’s ever since the founder and former CEO resigned from the pizza chain in June. But the story of Schnatter’s ascendance as the founder and face of one of the most popular pizza chains in the world is just as interesting as his fall.
As part of The Ringer’s first-ever “Pizza Day” lineup of pizza-related articles, the sports-and-culture website published an in-depth look at the rise and fall of “Papa” John Schnatter. The article offers a number of lesser-known details about Schnatter’s career, including context that re-frames the story of a 22-year-old Schnatter selling his Camaro to fund his dream and the fact that a little over a year ago, Schnatter’s personal wealth hit a high-water mark of $1 billion. But The Ringer’s most intriguing insight is its thesis that the legacy of Colonel Sanders informs the entire saga.
When Schantter used the n-word in a now-infamous conference call in May, he was comparing himself favorably to the KFC founder and spokesperson, someone The Ringer says Schantter consciously modeled himself after.
It’s telling that Schnatter chose Colonel Sanders as an example, and not other fast food tycoons, like Dave Thomas or Ray Kroc, or whoever the hell founded Pizza Hut or Domino’s. Colonel Sanders wore his signature white suit, bolo tie, Van Dyke, and glasses every day for 20 years, and was buried in his signature getup. Crucially, he’s the only founder who doubles as his company’s mascot — almost 40 years after his death, Colonel Sanders, not a Chihuahua or a clown, is still the face of Kentucky Fried Chicken.
That dual role as both founder and mascot is likely what has kept the story of Schantter’s ouster in headlines for more than two months now.
When a corporate officer resigns in disgrace, the company usually moves on, particularly if that officer is a traditional suit-wearing CEO. But not if the CEO wears a bowling shirt or a turtleneck, not if he’s a self-appointed visionary who is both man and mascot. At some point, Schnatter became Papa John Schnatter, and being the company gave him things that merely owning the company did not. Extricating the man from the company has not proved easy.
Ready the full article at theringer.com.