Papa John’s founder John Schnatter has been married to his wife, Annette Cox, since 1987. The couple has three children together, Kristine, Beau and Danielle. Schnatter and his wife live in an Italian-style villa in Anchorage, Kentucky, but also have homes in Florida and Utah.
In July 2018, Schnatter stepped down as the chairman of his company after Forbes reported that Schnatter had used the word “n*****” during a conference call. The founder had been on a call with a marketing company, Laundry Services, when Forbes says he said, “Colonel Sanders called blacks n****** and Sanders never faced public outcry.” CNN later reported that Schnatter was “physically” removed from the company’s headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky. The report adds that Schnatter still owns 30 percent of the company and remains on the board.
Schnatter had earlier told WLKY in Kentucky that Laundry Services had tried to extort him over his comments. He said, “They tried to extort us and we held firm and they took what I said and ran to Forbes. Forbes printed it and it went viral… I don’t condone racism in any way. Period. It’s just wrong.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Schnatter Started His Pizza Business in the Broom Closet of His Father’s Bar
According to The Encyclopedia of Louisville, John Schnatter founded Papa John’s in the broom closet of his father’s bar, Mick’s Lounge, in Jeffersonville, Indiana, in March 1984. Schnatter had just graduated from Ball State University. The founder grew up in Jeffersonville with his parents, Robert and Beth Ackerson. Around the time he founded Papa John’s, Schnatter also took over the running of Mick’s Lounge, selling his 1971 Chevrolet Camaro to buy his way into the struggling business. In August 2009, Papa John’s announced on their website that the Camaro had been located and bought back with the person who found it recovering a bounty of $250,000 from Schnatter. The company offered free pizza to Camaro owners for one day following the purchase. The car was stolen in August 2015 in Detroit and recovered two days later.
By 1985, Schnatter had moved his business out of Mick’s Lounge. In addition to being a bar owner, John Schnatter’s father was also a judge and prosecutor in Jeffersonville.
According to People Magazine, John Schnatter’s mother was a real estate agent. The family lived in a home above the Ohio River. Schnatter described his mother to People saying, “I’d come home with straight A’s, and she’d kind of throw the report card off to the side. We were expected to make straight A’s, keep our rooms clean, work on weekends and win in sports.” The People article says that Beth Ackerson’s father was Louis Ackerson, an attorney in Louisville who taught John Schnatter the value of hard work as he would make his grandson toil “for hours in Ackerson’s huge yard.”
Schnatter’s parents divorced in 1984 and his father died a few years later of a brain aneurysm at 51. Schnatter told People, “I buried my dad on a Thursday and showed up for work on Friday. We built us a pizza place, and the rest is history.” In an excerpt of his book, PAPA: The Story of Papa John’s Pizza, that was published by Business Insider, Schnatter said that his wife was present during the founding of the company in the 1980’s. Schnatter told Friday Magazine in 2012 that he and his wife grew up together.
2. Their Daughter Danielle Had be Delivered Prematurely After Schnatter’s Wife Was in a Car Accident
John Schnatter told People Magazine in an October 1997 interview that his daughter, Danielle, had to be delivered prematurely in 1990. While she was six months pregnant, Annette Schnatter’s car skidded during a rain storm in Louisville and hit a truck. Annette was rushed to a nearby hospital where doctors delivered Danielle at six months. Schnatter says his daughter weighed 4 pounds and was born with cerebral palsy. The article describes Danielle Schnatter as leading “close to a normal life” following multiple operations and therapy sessions. At one point doctors were concerned that Danielle might not ever speak. Schnatter told People, “She’s the happiest little girl I’ve ever met. She has great social skills and kids love her.”
According to her Facebook page, Danielle Schnatter is married to real estate agent Evan McWhirter. The couple got engaged in 2011 and have two children together. On her LinkedIn page, Danielle says that she works in insurance in Louisville. In the People feature, Schnatter spoke about teaching Danielle to play basketball saying that after a month, “We finally got it to where she could hold a ball in her left hand. In the fifth month she finally made a basket. Five months to make one basket. In the game of life, Danielle is going to win. She can handle adversity. She knows nothing comes easy.”
3. Schnatter Says His Wife Is the ‘Finest Human Being’ He Has Ever Met
Schnatter told the Courier Journal in a January 2013 interview that his wife is “the finest human being I’ve ever met.” In the same interview, when asked if he would give half of his fortune to charity, Schnatter said, “I would have to run it by my wife.” Annette is also a franchisee in Louisville. During a trip to Colorado in 2003, the couple stopped randomly at a Papa John’s store in Boulder and repositioned the boxes in the kitchen so that they would be easier to grab. The couple told the Courier Journal that they also take yoga classes together at the company’s headquarters.
4. The Schnatter Family Are Major Contributors to the Evangelical Southeast Christian Church
The Schnatter family are members of and contributors to the seventh largest church in the United States, the Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. When asked about his routine by Nation’s Restaurant News in 1997, Schnatter said that he spends Saturdays with his family and Sunday is “church-and-family day.” Schnatter says, “I keep things very basic and simple because building a business and raising a family are plenty if you want to do it right. Occasionally, I do a few speeches but very little socializing or parties.” The piece quotes Southeast pastor Rev. Robert Russell describing Schnatter as “very thorough and intense in everything he does. He’s always trying to grow. He has a strong work ethic from youth and solid moral values.” Russell described Schnatter as a “very generous” contributor to the church.
In addition to donating to their church, Schnatter and his wife have donated millions to various other causes, including in 2016 a $10 million gift to the University of Louisville’s athletics department. In 1997, John and Annette Schnatter created the John H. Schnatter Foundation.
5. Schnatter’s Brother, Chuck, Says the Former CEO ‘Hates to Lose Even More Than He Loves to Win’
Schnatter’s brother, Chuck, who served as a vice president and general counsel within the Papa John organization, told People in 1997 that the former CEO “loves to win… He hates to lose even more than he loves to win.” Schnatter’s sister, Anne, owns a drapery business in Kentucky. Biz Journals reported in July 2010 that Chuck Schantter had left the company after 19 years to switch his attention to Java Brewing Inc. as well as his own Papa John’s franchise.