Papa John’s founder John Schnatter tossing a pizza crust. | Courtesy of Business Wire

In a late-night news release, Papa John’s announced that its founder John Schnatter was stepping away from the company.

Schnatter resigned as chairman of Papa John’s board of directors hours after he resigned from the University of Louisville board of trustees following media reports that Schnatter used a racial slur on a company conference call.

According to the release, Olivia Kirtley, a prominent local businesswoman and an accountant, will act as the Lead Independent Director for Papa John’s.

“Papa John’s will appoint a new Chairman of the Board in the coming weeks,” the company said in the release, which provided no comment on Schnatter’s resignation.

Following the news of his departure from Papa John’s, the company’s stock — which dipped nearly 5 percent Wednesday — is rebounding in pre-market trading, at $50.28 a share as of 8:33 a.m.

The recent controversy surrounding Schnatter and the fallout stem from a Forbes story revealing that, while on a conference call with Papa John’s outside marketing team, Schnatter used a derogatory term aimed at African Americans. The call was a training exercise to prevent more bad press after Schnatter’s remarks last year about NFL players protesting racism; about a month after that, Schnatter relinquished his role as the company’s CEO but had held on to the chairman title.

In a statement yesterday, Schnatter acknowledged that the Forbes story was true and shortly after he tendered his resignation from the UofL Board of Trustees.

That was followed by the removal of Schnatter’s name from Nachand Fieldhouse, a historic gymnasium in downtown Jeffersonville, Ind., according to the News and Tribune. Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore decided to remove Schnatter’s name and told the reporter that the city could face legal ramifications because of a naming rights contract between the city and Schnatter, donated money toward the gym’s renovation.

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Caitlin Bowling
Louisville native Caitlin Bowling has covered the local restaurant and retail scene since 2014. After graduating from the Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, Caitlin got her start at a newspaper in the mountains of North Carolina where she won multiple state awards for her reporting. Since returning to Louisville, she’s written for Business First and Insider Louisville, winning awards for health and business reporting and becoming a go-to source for business news. In addition to restaurants and retail business, Caitlin covers real estate, economic development and tourism. Email Caitlin at [email protected]