John Schnattner visits "Mornings with Maria" hosted by Maria Bartiromo at Fox Business Network Studios on September 09, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)

John Schnatter's Estimated Net Worth: $500.0 million

John Schnatter became the man who reinvented pizza and turned it into a billion-dollar industry when he founded Papa John’s Pizza in 1984. A string of controversies led to him stepping down as CEO and chairman of the board in 2018. Nonetheless, he has successfully built his fame and wealth as the eponymous Papa John. The pizza mogul had achieved billionaire status at one point. But since giving up the head honcho position at Papa John’s Pizza, Schnatter’s net worth has declined dramatically. The latest estimates put his net worth at $500.0 million in 2019. He’s now claiming that the pizza empire he built is being mismanaged. 

John Schnatter Founded Papa John’s Pizza in 1984

John Schnatter was born in Indiana on November 22, 1961. His father, a judge, co-owned a local tavern in their hometown of Jeffersonville.

After graduating with a business degree from Ball State University in 1983, Schnatter started Papa John’s pizza in 1984. He began operating from the broom closet of his father’s tavern, which he converted into Papa John’s first store. He sold his Camaro to purchase $1,600 worth of equipment to make pies that he sold to the tavern’s patrons.

As the business expanded, he moved to an adjoining space after a year. It only grew from there, going public in 1993. The following year, Papa John’s had opened 500 stores across the country, tripling that number by 1997.

As Papa John’s Pizza was on an upward trajectory, so was Papa John himself. By 2017, he had made onto the billionaires’ list, with a $1.0 billion net worth.

A legend in the pizza industry, his famous pie-tossing hands are reportedly insured for millions. But even though he has more dough than pizza, he once staunchly proclaimed that executive salaries were “immoral.”

Maintaining that stance, he was reportedly paid a $3.6 million salary in 2015, which was 20% of what he should have been earning.

Here’s how Schnatter compared to other global restaurant chain moguls.

Entrepreneur Net Worth
Dave Thomas (Wendy’s) $4.2 billion
Zev Siegl (Starbucks) $3.0 billion
Fred DeLuca (Subway) $2.5 billion
Peter Buck (Subway) $1.6 billion
John Schnatter $500.0 million
Tom Monaghan (Domino’s Pizza) $500.0 million
Jerry Baldwin (Starbucks) $2.4 million

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Schnatter Stepped Down as CEO of Papa John’s Pizza

Papa John’s reign wasn’t without controversy, particularly in recent years. The first blow came in November 2017, when  comments surfaced of him criticizing NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for allegedly not doing anything about national anthem protests by football players to investors.

Papa John’s was once an NFL sponsor and Schnatter was allegedly frustrated that the national anthem protests were hurting the company’s sales.

Papa John’s’ bottom line took a hit that November when displeased investors sold 11% of their shares, dropping the price to $60.00 per share. This decreased Schnatter’s net worth by an estimated $70.0 million, according to Forbes.

Following the backlash that ensued, Schnatter stepped down as CEO of Papa John’s in December 2017. COO Steve Ritchie replaced him as CEO.

He continued to remain chairman of the board and would remain the face of the brand, appearing in its commercials and ad campaigns.

However, in July 2018, Schnatter allegedly used the N-word in a conference call, prompting a fresh wave of criticism. In the fallout, he resigned as chairman of the board.

He would be dropped from Forbes’ billionaires’ list in 2018, as his net worth declined.

Schnatter Sold His Shares in Papa John’s

During his tenure, Schnatter raised the company’s share prices from $8.00 to $19.00 in 2012. He had successfully catapulted his company to the third-largest pizza company in the world. With approximately 9.5 million shares, he is the majority shareholder of the company.

As of May 2019, he owned more than 30% of Papa John’s stock. But by May, he began selling most of his shares.

He reduced his stake to 19% in May, selling 3.8 million shares. In November, it was reported that he sold a $107.5-million slice of his shares. With the sale, he currently owns $2.9 million shares, worth more than nine percent of the company.

Schnatter Bought Back His Father’s Camaro

Schnatter sold his father’s 1971 Chevrolet Camaro for $2,800 to pay off his father’s tavern’s debts and used the remaining funds to start his pizza business. Decades later, he paid $250,000 to buy back the Camaro from the family he sold it to!

His massive pizza empire has also paid for a magnificent home he built in 1992. The 9,500-square-foot home is in Louisville, Kentucky’s Anchorage suburbs.

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