Once again, John Schnatter, Papa John’s CEO, steps down from his post. However, this most recent departure appears to be permanent. Schnatter founded the pizza chain in 1984 and was one of the few remaining CEOs who also acted as their brand’s advertising pitchman.
By emphasizing that Papa John’s pizza used better ingredients and has an overall better tasting product, he was able to solidify the chain as a national force that thrived and competed with other giants including Domino’s Pizza and Pizza Hut.
Though there has been no public announcement made regarding the reason for his decision, he will remain as chairman of the board. Schnatter will be replaced by current company president Steve Ritchie. As the founder, and face of Papa John’s pizza, Schnatter has been one of the biggest names in fast food. However, he recently ran into controversy with the NFL.
Louisville-based Papa John’s is the official pizza sponsor of the National Football League. However, on a November 1st analyst call, the Papa John’s CEO criticized the sports league stating, “The NFL has been a long and valued partner over the years. But we’re certainly disappointed that the NFL and its leadership did not resolve the ongoing situation to the satisfaction of all parties long ago.” Schattner added, “This should’ve been nipped in the bud a year-and-a-half ago.”
After receiving a barrage of criticism for said comment, the company sent out an apology 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.”
Papa John’s CEO is not the first founder to step away from CEO duties. Last month, Chipotle Mexican Grill CEO Steve Ells announced that he will transition to executive chairman, while Panera Bread’s Ron Shaich revealed that he would be stepping down as CEO but retain his position as board chairman.
Although Papa John’s Pizza could not be reached immediately for comment, the company has said in a statement that Schattner will continue to “pursue his personal passion for entrepreneurship, leadership development, and education.”
Although his impending title change has caught restaurant industry watchers by surprise, John Gordon of the Pacific Management Consulting Group wonders whether the move is board-driven or if it was John’s choice. Gordon speculates, “He and/or the board see the need to get him out of the line of fire and to continue his involvement in a less visible way.”
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