The papa of Papa John's is leaving the CEO seat

John Schnatter, who founded the Papa John's pizza chain in the 1980s, is leaving the chief executive seat.He'l...

Posted: Dec 22, 2017 12:40 PM
Updated: Dec 22, 2017 12:40 PM

John Schnatter, who founded the Papa John's pizza chain in the 1980s, is leaving the chief executive seat.

He'll stay on with the company as its chairman, the company said Thursday in a press release. Replacing him is Steve Ritchie, the current chief operating officer. The change will take effect on January 1, the company said. There was no reason given for the change in leadership.

The shakeup comes after a string of public relations debacles and slumping sales.

Papa John's is a major NFL sponsor, and Schnatter wasn't shy about sharing his thoughts about players who took a knee during the national anthem to protest the treatment of black Americans, particularly by police.

President Trump earlier this year publicly criticized players who chose to kneel, ratcheting up the controversy.

"This should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago," Schnatter said on a conference call with investors in November. "The controversy is polarizing the customer, polarizing the country."

During the call, he also blamed the controversy for dismal sales.

Related: Papa John's says it didn't mean to be 'divisive' on NFL protests

Backlash ensued on social media and his remarks were criticized by those who argue the players are exercising free speech and should be permitted to do so. Late-night comics lampooned Schnatter.

And, adding to the ordeal, the white supremacist website Daily Stormer floated the idea that Papa John's was the "official pizza of the alt-right."

That forced the Louisville, Kentucky-based Papa John's to issue a clarifying statement asserting, "We condemn racism in all forms," according to the Courier-Journal.

About two weeks after Schnatter made his controversial comments, the company attempted an apology on Twitter.

Related: Papa John's says NFL protests are hurting sales

"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," the tweet read. "That definitely was not our intention."

The pizza chain said that it supports "the players' movement to create a new platform for change" but that it also believes that "as Americans, we should honor our anthem."

"We will work with the players and league to find a positive way forward. Open to ideas from all. Except neo-nazis," the company tweeted, offering a "middle finger" emoji to "those guys."

Papa John's has also faced waning sales recently. The company's stock price is down more than 30% so far this year.

Ritchie, Schnatter's replacement, joined Papa John's as a customer service rep in 1996 making $6 per hour. He went on to own a Papa John's franchise, and in 2014 he was promoted to chief operating officer.

--CNNMoney's Ahiza Garcia and Rob McLean contributed to this report.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 71015

Reported Deaths: 3013
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion15322723
Lake7343274
Elkhart471380
Allen3725160
St. Joseph330179
Hamilton2610104
Vanderburgh184213
Hendricks1814106
Cass17669
Johnson1694118
Porter123839
Clark114846
Tippecanoe114611
Madison89565
LaPorte86930
Howard85565
Kosciusko82712
Marshall75822
Bartholomew75447
Floyd74045
Monroe70830
Delaware68052
Dubois65812
Boone65346
Noble64529
Hancock63838
Jackson5625
LaGrange55410
Warrick55330
Vigo54310
Shelby53527
Grant52029
Dearborn47928
Morgan45134
Clinton4043
Henry36919
White35110
Montgomery34621
Wayne34610
Lawrence33727
Decatur32432
Harrison30923
Putnam2778
Miami2642
Daviess25920
Scott25710
Greene24134
Franklin23413
DeKalb2234
Jasper2192
Jennings21512
Gibson2084
Steuben2043
Ripley1947
Perry17912
Fayette1777
Starke1747
Orange16624
Posey1650
Wabash1613
Fulton1592
Carroll1572
Wells1542
Jefferson1532
Whitley1476
Knox1420
Tipton1296
Huntington1213
Washington1211
Spencer1193
Newton11410
Randolph1144
Clay1045
Sullivan911
Adams892
Jay840
Owen831
Pulaski751
Brown711
Rush714
Fountain642
Benton600
Blackford592
Ohio574
Pike520
Parke501
Vermillion480
Crawford440
Switzerland440
Martin420
Union350
Warren201
Unassigned0202

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 97471

Reported Deaths: 3618
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin17834521
Cuyahoga13141491
Hamilton9374252
Lucas5155320
Montgomery417487
Summit3433218
Marion291045
Butler282262
Mahoning2477254
Pickaway237842
Stark1766137
Warren171136
Lorain168977
Columbiana161860
Trumbull1481105
Fairfield130931
Delaware126319
Licking120247
Clark111514
Lake107338
Wood99358
Clermont89211
Medina88735
Miami81137
Tuscarawas76214
Portage74361
Allen69942
Greene65611
Belmont59226
Richland58911
Mercer57313
Erie55627
Ashtabula55045
Geauga54844
Wayne51958
Ross4444
Huron3885
Ottawa36825
Sandusky36316
Darke36027
Athens3531
Hancock3533
Madison34910
Holmes3266
Lawrence2420
Auglaize2395
Union2331
Jefferson2192
Muskingum2151
Scioto2111
Putnam19917
Washington19822
Knox1917
Seneca1903
Coshocton1886
Shelby1774
Preble1762
Crawford1715
Morrow1652
Hardin15912
Clinton1586
Champaign1571
Highland1461
Fulton1441
Logan1402
Ashland1373
Wyandot1368
Defiance1334
Williams1303
Brown1232
Perry1163
Guernsey1147
Hocking1149
Henry1132
Carroll1105
Fayette1090
Monroe9118
Pike750
Jackson730
Van Wert701
Paulding640
Gallia621
Adams592
Meigs330
Vinton302
Morgan230
Harrison221
Noble170
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Clear
55° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 55°
Angola
Overcast
54° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 54°
Huntington
Few Clouds
54° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 54°
Decatur
54° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 54°
Van Wert
54° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 54°
Sunny, Pleasant Friday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events