Papa John’s founder John Schnatter will step down as the company CEO
He will be replaced as chief executive by Chief Operating Officer Steve Ritchie
Schnatter, the company’s biggest shareholder, will remain as the chairman
Earlier this year, Schnatter blamed slowing sales growth at Papa John’s – an NFL sponsor and advertiser – on the outcry surrounding the player protests
The company has yet to decide if Schnatter will still be the company spokesman
22 December 2017
Papa John’s founder John Schnatter will step down as CEO next month, after he publicly criticized the NFL leadership over national anthem protests by football players.
Schnatter will be replaced as chief executive by Chief Operating Officer Steve Ritchie on January 1, the company announced Thursday.
Schnatter, who appears in the chain’s commercials and on its pizza boxes, and is the company’s biggest shareholder, remains chairman of the board.
Earlier this year, Schnatter blamed slowing sales growth at Papa John’s – an NFL sponsor and advertiser – on the outcry surrounding players kneeling during the national anthem, comments for which the company later apologized.
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick had kneeled during the national anthem to protest what he said was police mistreatment of black men, and other players started kneeling as well.
The controversy is polarizing the customer, polarizing the country,’ Schnatter said during a conference call about the company’s earnings on November 1.
Papa John’s apologized two weeks later, after white supremacists praised Schnatter’s comments. The Louisville, Kentucky-based company distanced itself from the group, saying that it did not want them to buy their pizza.
Ritchie declined to say Thursday if the NFL comments played a role in Schnatter stepping down, only saying that it’s ‘the right time to make this change.’
Shares of Papa John’s are down about 13 percent since the day before the NFL comments were made, reducing the value of Schnatter’s stake in the company by nearly $84 million.
Schnatter owns nearly 9.5 million shares of Papa John’s International Inc., and his total stake was valued at more than $560 million on Thursday, according to FactSet. The company’s stock is down 30 percent since the beginning of the year.