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Papa John's founder John Schnatter steps down as company's CEO

24 December 2017, 12:58 | Franklin Nunez

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

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

The company will promote longtime employee and former president Steve Ritchie to the position of CEO.

"I am so proud of Steve - he has excelled at every job he's ever held at Papa John's - from being an hourly customer service rep, to a delivery driver, store general manager, director of operations, franchisee and most recently President", said Papa John's founder, John Schnatter, in a statement. However, Schnatter will still be chairman of the board and is still the biggest shareholder.

Some left-wing critics have said that Schnatter's departure as CEO isn't enough to convince them to support the company given that he will remain chairman of the board.

Schnatter drew attention - and support from white supremacists - after saying in November that Papa John's sales were in a slump because the National Football League had not addressed players' protests, which were meant to draw attention to police violence and racial injustice.

"The NFL has hurt us", Schnatter said. The company was forced to issue an apology after a neo-Nazi website dubbed Papa John's "the official pizza of the alt-right".

Both those comments wound up hurting the company even more.

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The stock declined as much as 4.3 percent to $56.71, the biggest intraday drop since December 6.

Schnatter is the face of the company as well and appears in marketing and images for the company.

This is not the first time Schnatter has stepped down as CEO.

The news of Ritchie's new role comes on the heels of a year of particularly negative press for the pizza company's brand.

The pizza chain has seen its stock price decline about 13 percent since the remarks were made and down about 30 percent since the beginning of this year. He became a Papa John's franchise owner and operator in 2006.

The founder also cited this figure when he slammed "immoral" executive salaries in a 2017 interview with Business Insider."I haven't taken a raise probably in two, three, four years", Schnatter said in the interview. Papa John's customers can order through Facebook and Apple TV, but Ritchie said he wants the chain to be everywhere customers are. Whether Schnatter will continue as spokesman has not been decided, Ritchie said.



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