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Papa John’s names Olivia Kirtley board chair

Company vows to appoint more independent directors

Papa John’s International Inc., has named Olivia Kirtley, left, as chair of its board of directors, the company said Friday.

Kirtley replaces Papa John’s founder John Schnatter, who resigned earlier this month amid allegations of using inappropriate language during a meeting.

Kirtley was already the board’s lead independent director, and in announcing her appointment the company also said it was looking to appoint more independent directors “to advance cultural and business objectives.”

Since his departure as chairman, Schnatter, who remains a director on the board said his resignation as chairman was a mistake and that he was pushed out unjustifiably.

Following his resignation, the board terminated its 2007 “Agreement for Service as Founder” that allowed Schnatter to attend major corporate events and act as company spokesperson, among other privileges. It also has evicted him from his offices at the chain’s Louisville, Ky., headquarters and removed him from advertising promoting the pizza chain.

Steve Ritchie, who replaced Schnatter as CEO at the beginning of the year, said the board would retain an independent expert to audit systems and policies related to diversity and inclusion and other aspects of corporate culture. 

Schnatter has sued the company to release documents detailing the board’s decision-making process.

In the statement announcing her appointment Friday, Kirtley said, “The independent directors of Papa John’s Board are committed to serving the best interests of the company, our shareholders and other stakeholders. The establishment of the Board’s independent Special Committee and the ongoing cultural audit and investigation are among numerous steps underway to ensure that equity, inclusion, diversity and respect are upheld throughout the organization.

“Many stakeholders, including team members, franchisees and shareholders, have expressed their support for the actions we are taking. We appreciate this support and value the feedback we have received. The independent members of the Board and leadership will continue to engage with shareholders and other stakeholders to hear their perspectives and ideas, including on Board composition, so that these views can be considered in our work to move forward.”

Kirtley is a certified public accountant and a consultant on strategic and corporate governance issues. She has been the lead independent director on Papa John’s board since 2017. She is a former chief financial officer of the accounting firm Ernst & Young LLP.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected] 

Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary

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