Papa John's Is Losing Its Papa

Danny Moloshok  Reuters
John Schnatter founder and chief executive of Papa John's Pizza waves goodbye

John Schnatter, the founder of Papa John's, has stepped down as chief executive officer of the pizza restaurant chain, according to the company.

"With 120,000 Papa John's corporate and franchise employees, Steve will put the spotlight on our pizza and the most important ingredient - our team members", Schnatter said.

"The NFL has hurt Papa John's shareholders", said Papa John's Founder "Papa" John Schnatter during a November 1 conference call to investors.

Some said Papa John's sales were hit because the pizza isn't that good.

"We're certainly disappointed that the National Football League and its leadership did not resolve the ongoing situation to the satisfaction of all parties long ago", Schnatter added. 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.

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Schnatter isn't the first founder to step away recently from CEO duties at the company he built from scratch.

Papa John's stock closed at $59.23, down 2 cents or 0.03 per cent on Thursday.

This likely won't make Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones too happy, who backed Papa John's statement. Same-store sales were actually in the green at 1 percent growth, year-over-year.

On Nov. 14, the company sent out an I'm-sorry tweet: "The statements made on our earnings call were describing the factors that impact our business and we sincerely apologize to anyone that thought they were divisive". He took a break from being CEO between 2005 and 2008. He also added a co-CEO, Jude Thompson, in 2010 before ending the arrangement a year later. Schnatter announced his decision when the market closed. Steve Ritchie, formally the company's COO, will be installed as CEO in January.

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