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Papa John's Schnatter blasts company in television interview WDRB News

Former Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter blasts pizza company

In television interview, exiled founder criticizes brand leadership

John Schnatter, former CEO of Papa John’s International Inc., added fuel Monday to his ongoing feud with the company he founded.

In a nearly five-minute exclusive segment Monday with Louisville, Ky., television station WDRB, Schnatter said he’s eaten 40 pies in last 30 days. “And it’s not the same pizza,” he said in the interview, which also touched on the company’s controversies and ensuing leadership changes.

“It's not the same product. It just doesn't taste as good,” Schnatter said. “The way they're making the pizza, the way they are putting the pizza together is not just fundamentally sound to what makes a Papa John’s pizza a Papa John’s pizza.”

At midday Tuesday, Papa John’s stock was down more than 30 cents a share, or 0.5%, to $61.51.

The Louisville-based pizza company did not respond to a request for comment.

Schnatter stepped down as CEO in January 2018 following a controversy over his blame of flagging sales on protests in the National Football League. He stepped down as chairman in July 2018 after his use of a racial slur during media training. Activist investor Starboard Value LP bought into the company after a sales decline, and Papa John’s named Rob Lynch, a former Arby’s executives, as CEO in August.

In the television interview, Schnatter said the race controversy was fabricated and company insiders used the incident as an opportunity to push him out.

"I just didn't know it would happen from people on the inside doing this," he said. "I thought it would come from the outside."

Schnatter said he’s been selling his shares in the company.

"My metaphor is: There's no reason to be in the car when the car crashes even if you love the car," he said.

"Stay tuned. The day of reckoning will come," Schnatter said in the television interview. "The record will be straight."

For the third quarter ended Sept. 29, Papa John’s net income was $385,000, for a loss of 10 cents a share, compared to a net loss of $13.3 million, or a loss of 42 cents a share, in the prior-year period. Revenues increased 4.8%, to $403.7 million, from $385.2 million in the same quarter last year.

Earnings were impacted by the company’s royalty relief for franchisees and marketing fund investments of about $13.7 million in the first nine months of the year.

Papa John’s North America same-store sales increased 1% in the third quarter, the first positive comparison in two years. Third-quarter international same-store sales increased 1.6%.

As of Sept. 29, Papa John’s had 5,343 Papa John’s restaurants in 49 countries and territories.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

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