Report: Wendy’s, Papa John’s held merger talks before racial incident

Report: Wendy’s, Papa John’s held merger talks before racial incident

Talks reportedly cooled amid scandal that led Papa John’s founder and chairman to step down

The embattled founder of Papa John’s International reportedly was in talks with Wendy’s about merging the burger and pizza brands, according to sources cited Wednesday by the Wall Street Journal.

When asked if the merger talks were true, representatives for both Wendy’s and Papa John’s said they would not comment.

The purported merger comes as Papa John’s is under siege following a public relations debacle tied to its ousted founder and chairman, John Schnatter. The former CEO resigned after he admitted to using a racial slur during media training with a marketing agency. 

“The talks between Wendy’s officials and Mr. Schnatter, who still sits on the board and owns 29 percent of Papa John’s, were preliminary and began before he stepped down as chairman last week,” the Wall Street Journal said citing “people familiar with the matter.”

“The talks, which Papa John’s board was aware of, have cooled since the incident,” one of the sources said.

Schnatter founded the company in 1984, and he retains a board seat.

On Sunday, the board of Louisville, Ky.-based Papa John’s terminated its 2007 Founder Agreement, which called for him to attend corporate events, participate in management and investor meetings and act as brand spokesman. The company also removed Schnatter from its advertising.

Papa’s John’s, the nation’s third largest pizza chain, has previously dealt with controversy around Schnatter’s actions. In December, Schnatter stepped down as Papa John’s president and CEO  after he blamed the company’s flagging sales on the National Football League for not quelling players’ on-field “take a knee” protests.

Contact Nancy Luna at [email protected] 

Follow her on Twitter: @FastFoodMaven

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