John H. Schnatter is Papa John’s Founder and the former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.
From an early age, Schnatter watched with respect and admiration how his late father, Robert Schnatter, and his late grandfather, Louis Ackerson, handled themselves in business and in their respective legal careers. They were not only his mentors, they were the biggest fans of his seemingly endless stamina and determination.
John’s father had been a judge and prosecutor in Jeffersonville and had several business ventures in addition to Mick’s Lounge, where John sold his first pizza. While only modestly successful in business, his father was tenacious and had the guts to never quit. John’s grandfather was also a business owner and attorney. “Papaw” Ackerson drilled into John the importance of a strong work ethic and to focus on what you do best. Today, those remain signature elements of the Papa John’s philosophy.
In 1983, John Schnatter delivered his last college campus pizza, received his business degree from Ball State University and headed home to Jeffersonville, Indiana. There, at age 22, he knocked down a broom closet in his father’s tavern, installed an oven and began delivering pizza out of the back of the bar.
From there, John and the Papa John’s team built a restaurant company that would eventually grow to over 5,000 stores in 45 countries, all focused on the idea of “Better Ingredients. Better Pizza”.
John, his wife, Annette, and their private foundation have donated tens of millions of dollars to charities. Some of the organizations supported include the University of Louisville, Ball State University, the Louisville Zoo, 21st Century Parks, and St. Vincent Children’s Hospital.
John’s numerous business achievements and philanthropic efforts culminated in his induction into the Louisville Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame in 2000, and the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame in 2007. In 2011, John was inducted into Nova Southeastern University’s H. Wayne Huizenga Business School’s Entrepreneur Hall of Fame.