Steve Ritchie will step up and become the new CEO of pizza maker Papa John’s International next month. Yesterday, John Schnatter, the company’s current CEO and founder, announced he is vacating the position.
Ritchie started with Papa John’s 21 years ago as a customer service rep, earning minimum wage. Later, in 2006, he purchased and built a successful Papa John’s store location. Ritchie didn’t stop there and steadily moved up within the ranks of the corporation, taking the Chief Operating Officer job in 2014.
“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. We couldn’t have a more proven leader to guide Papa John’s through its next stage of growth,” said Schnatter, as reported by Business Wire.
In November, Papa John’s faced controversy after John Schnatter disparaged the NFL for its “poor leadership” and response to the national anthem demonstrations. In a recent report from the Inquisitr, Schnatter blamed the football organization for falling ratings, slower pizza sales, and for “polarizing the country.” Papa John’s is the NFL’s biggest pizza sponsor.
According to a Washington Post report, Steve Ritchie got involved in the debate after predicting sales and revenue of Papa John’s will likely decline until the NFL puts the protests to rest. The company eventually backtracked and apologized for the statements.
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. That definitely was not our intention. (1/3)— Papa John's Pizza (@PapaJohns) November 15, 2017
The company now wants to move on and leave the controversy behind. Ritchie officially takes the CEO job on January 1, while Schnatter will remain active as the company’s chairman of the board. Papa John’s did not say if the NFL debacle had anything to do with the leadership change.
“I am humbled to take on this role,” said Ritchie, as quoted by Business Wire. “By focusing on our team members, we will deliver the world-class experiences our customers deserve.”
Founded in 1984 by John Schnatter, Papa John’s was started in a small Indiana tavern and grew to be the third-largest pizza delivery chain on the planet. The company now boasts over 5,000 stores worldwide, with 3,400 in North America. Schnatter has been the public face of the company for years, appearing in numerous TV commercials and on pizza boxes. Currently, the pizza mogul has an estimated net worth over $770 million.
Despite its past success, the company’s stock price has taken a hit in recent years, down more than 30 this year alone. With Papa John’s naming Steve Ritchie as CEO, investors are sure to react, either positively or negatively, as the trading day goes on.