peyton manning Bobby Ellis/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

Peyton Manning sold franchised units before Papa John’s NFL split

Pizza brand says former quarterback will remain a spokesman

Retired Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning shed his stake in 31 Papa John’s locations a day before the brand dropped its official National Football League sponsorship, the company confirmed Wednesday.

Manning, who retired as Broncos’ quarterback in 2016 after winning Super Bowl 50, had initially invested in the Denver restaurants in October 2012 and sold off his stake on Feb. 26, just before Papa John’s made its NFL pull-out announcement on Feb. 27.

“After six successful and rewarding years, Peyton Manning and Papa John’s International have sold their stake in 31 Papa John’s locations, which were part of a joint-venture in the Denver Colo., market,” the Louisville, Ky.-based pizza chain said in a statement Wednesday.

“Peyton remains an official Papa John’s spokesperson and brand ambassador as part of his long-term agreement with the brand,” the company added.

Peter Collins, Papa John’s senior director of public relations, said the restaurants were purchased by an existing Papa John’s franchisee that owns “a substantial number” of Papa John’s locations in large markets.

“The franchisee that purchased the market is excited about the future of our business and assumed ownership of all Papa John’s locations in the Denver, Colo., market on Feb. 26,” Collins said in an email.

Papa John’s International Inc. announced Feb. 27 that it had ended its official sponsorship of the National Football League. The next day, competitor Pizza Hut, a division of Yum! Brands Inc., said it would become the NFL’s new “Official Pizza Sponsor.”

Papa John’s new CEO, Steve Ritchie, said that while the company was ending its official sponsorship of the NFL, which started in 2010, and it would continue its partnership with 22 specific football teams as well as popular personalities within the league. 

The end of Papa John’s NFL larger deal came as the 5,199-unit chain reported domestic same-store sales had declined 3.9 percent in the most recent quarter. 

John Schnatter, Papa John’s founder and former CEO, sparked controversy in November when he blamed the chain’s sales declines on NFL players’ on-field protests. 

Papa John’s commercials began featuring Schnatter and Manning together in 2011, and the quarterback bought into the Denver market a year later.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless 

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