Laundry Service Calls Founder of Papa John’s Extortion Claims ‘Completely False’ in Memo

Company plans 'to go on the record and refute them'

John Schnatter now says his resignation was a mistake. - Credit by Getty Images
Headshot of Patrick Coffee

An unnamed executive from Papa John’s now former ad agency Laundry Service today sent a memo to all employees calling recent claims by the brand’s founder John Schnatter “completely false.”

In the memo, which Adweek acquired, this individual also advises employees to avoid talking to the press or discussing client business with anyone outside the parent company, Laundry Service or its production division Cycle.

Last Monday, Adweek broke the news that Laundry Service had parted with CEO Jason Stein and approximately 60 employees due to “client attrition.” The following morning, Forbes reported that the agency had resigned the account following a May strategy call in which Schnatter used the N-word and made other racially insensitive statements.

Schnatter subsequently resigned as chairman of the pizza chain.

On Friday, Schnatter claimed in interviews with local TV and radio stations near the company’s headquarters in Louisville, Ky., that unnamed Laundry Service employees had “pressured” him into the conversation and attempted to “extort” his company for $6 million before leaking news of the call to Forbes.

The note strongly denies those claims. It also states that the company will soon come forward specifically refuting them.

“As you all know, there’s been a lot of coverage about Laundry Service and Wasserman related to the Papa John’s situation in the past several days,” the note begins. “The disparaging and outrageous comments about Wasserman and Laundry Service that have been covered are completely false and we have a centralized PR strategy to go on the record and refute them. Until that time we cannot expect the media to know the truth.”

The note tells employees to defer to a third-party PR firm if a journalist should reach them by phone or in writing, advising them to avoid even providing a “no comment” response.

“To this end there are a lot of journalists making inquiries about Papa John’s and Laundry Service, and those inquiries should continue be referred to our corporate public relations representative, Melissa Zukerman,” the note reads.

It concludes: “All matters pertaining to Laundry Service, Cycle, Wasserman and their clients are strictly confidential and should not be disclosed to anyone outside the company.”

A spokesperson for Laundry Service and Wasserman declined to comment for this story. A Papa John’s representative did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

This morning, The Wall Street Journal reported that Schnatter and his lawyer sent a letter to the company’s board of directors calling his decision to resign “a mistake.”

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.