Fallen founder says Papa John’s gave in to ‘extortion’ demand

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 31: John H. Schnatter, Founder, Chairman & CEO of Papa John's International, Inc. rings the NASDAQ Opening Bell at NASDAQ MarketSite on January 31, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images)

That’s a lot of dough.

Papa John’s gave into the alleged extortion demand made by a Los Angeles marketing firm — forking over $1.2 million of the $6 million that was requested, the pizza chain’s embattled founder claims, The Post has learned.

The marketing company, Laundry Service, asked for the payout after pizza mogul John Schnatter used the N-word during a media training conference call in May, according to a letter the executive sent to the board of the 5,212-store chain.

Laundry Service brass requested the cash because their employees were offended by the racial slur, Schnatter said in the July 14 letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Post.

Schnatter also claims the cash demand came after Papa John’s fired the marketing firm.

“We owed them approximately $1.3 million,” Schnatter wrote in the letter. “Of course, we said we would pay them what we owed, but they said they wanted $6 million because they claimed some of their people had been offended by what I had said.”

Schnatter admits he used the N-word on the conference call but claims he was “pushed” by Laundry Service executives to use the slur. The executive said he didn’t want to pay the firm.

“Unfortunately, the company gave in to this extortion attempt and offered them $2.5 million or roughly $1.2 million more than they were owed,” Schnatter wrote in the letter.

Laundry Service, through a spokesperson, declined to comment on the letter. Papa John’s did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Schnatter stepped down as Papa John’s chairman on July 11 after he came under attack when the slur uttered in May was made public last week.

Schnatter, who has retained a high-powered Los Angeles lawyer Patricia Glaser, said he regrets stepping down as chairman.

“I agreed, though today I believe it was a mistake to do so,” he wrote in the letter.

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