The education of Papa John

  @FortuneMagazine February 28, 2013: 9:12 AM ET
PAP18 papa johns

John Schnatter tosses dough in Papa John's test kitchen.


As the wrought-iron gate swings shut behind us, John Schnatter, founder and CEO of his namesake Papa John's International, eases his Cadillac Escalade up the cobblestone driveway to his estate just outside Louisville.

"Whoa!" I exclaim. "You have a moat!"

"It's no moat," Schnatter says gloomily. "It's just a pond." The pond in question flanks one side of his 22,000-square-foot McCastle. There's no drawbridge, but a small viaduct rises over the water.

We climb out of the SUV and approach the front door. "We'll do a quick tour," Schnatter says briskly. "And I'll show you the garage."

Is that why he has invited me to the house? To showcase his garage? I'd had visions of a much grander, more extensive visit.

But Schnatter, 51, is a man of singular focus. He is taking no chances today, and he is determined to get me in and out of the house in less time than it takes to deliver a pizza. He leaves the car engine running.

These are strange times for America's most famous pizza guy. Pies are flying out of his ovens. His 4,000th store opened last year. Papa John's stock has been trading at all-time highs. Yet John Schnatter feels afflicted, hunted.

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