John Schnatter, CEO of Papa John's Pizza, believes he is one step closer to vindication after a federal court unsealed a complaint alleging that the ad firm "Laundry Service," hired by Schnatter, actually plotted to destroy his reputation and company.
Laundry Service is a branding company that was originally hired by Papa John's to help recuperate its public image. A "hot mic" conversation allegedly captured the company's CEO Jason Stein acknowledging that he would use Schnatter's previously recorded words out of context to humiliate him.
"[I hope] he gets f***ing sent out to the pasture with this s**t," Stein reportedly says, according to the court filing.
In the original audio of Schnatter, the Papa John's CEO was reportedly condemning racism, even blasting a "well-known public figure" for using racially insensitive terminology. Stein and Laundry Service allegedly worked to twist those words in a manner that made Schnatter appear to be the racist.
The filing notes that Stein and his employees attempted to arrange a hostile television interview during which they hoped Schnatter would inadvertently incriminate himself.
A frustrated Schnatter called the contents of the taped conversation "chilling" and noted that it made clear that Laundry Service was simply out to "destroy [his] reputation as well as the Papa John's brand."
"There was nothing racist in my words or actions on the conference call with our ad firm and [it] also proves there has never been in my history," Schnatter said.
Laundry Service's motivation in attempting to destroy Schnatter and his pizza empire was not immediately clear.