Papa John's founder and CEO steps down

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

Papa John's CEO John Schnatter announced that he is stepping down as CEO just several months after his controversial statements about protesting National Football League players led to accusations of racism and the official endorsement of the alt-right.

Papa John's pizza founder John Schnatter has had a long history of running his mouth off and it has finally caught up to him.

Schnatter triggered fierce criticism by saying the pizza chain's sales were hurt by the NFL's handling of the controversy over players kneeling during the national anthem to protest police violence and racial injustice.

"The NFL has hurt us", Schnatter said.

The company did not reveal Schnatter's reason for stepping down more than 30 years after he founded the company, and he will remain the chairman of the board at Papa John's. Schnatter also stepped down as CEO in 2005 but returned three years later. Schnatter owns about 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.

"We do not want these individuals or groups to buy our pizza", the spokesman said.

As for Schnatter, a Jeffersonville-native, he will stay on as Chairman of the company's board of directors.

While the pizza chain's future was temporarily tossed in the air, it seems to have landed in loyal hands. Though the executive will continue to focus on product quality and customer satisfaction, he also plans to pursue "his personal passion for entrepreneurship, leadership development and education", Papa John's said.

The stock declined as much as 4.3 percent to $56.71, the biggest intraday drop since December 6. Papa John's shares fell 8.5 percent in a single day during November - the biggest drop in two years - after same-store sales missed analysts' estimates.

Papa John's, which lays claim to being the nation's third-largest pizza chain, could not be reached immediately for comment.

"We believe in the right to protest inequality and support the players' movement to create a new platform for change", the company said.

Ritchie said his focus as CEO will be making it easier for customers to order a Papa John's pizza from anywhere.

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