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Papa John's founder steps down after blaming anthem protests for slumping sales
24 December 2017, 12:55 | Violet Powell
Papa John's CEO to step down after NFL protest comments
"I think it's possible that this was a conscious decision to get him out of the line of fire", said restaurant analyst John Gordon, who is the founder and CEO of Pacific Management Consulting Group. Schnatter, meanwhile, will remain with the company as Chairman and founder.
Schnatter, whose pizza is an official NFL sponsor, blamed his company's financial losses on NFL players protesting police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem.
"I am humbled to take on this role", Ritchie said in his statement. The 56-year-old businessman came under major condemnation after he said Papa John's, an National Football League sponsor and advertiser, had been "hurt" by the "take a knee" protest led by African-American players that raised awareness about police brutality. Since then, it has grown to more than 5,000 locations.
He also said that sales had declined because of the protests. According to the company's website, Schnatter himself still owns more than 9 million shares - a stake worth upwards of $500 million. Strangely, the potential relevance of the fact that Papa John's pizza tastes like garlic-infused despair never came up. "The focus of the brand needs to be the pizza".
No word yet whether Schnatter, in his new role, will continue appearing in saccharine TV ads with longtime business partner and noted close friend Peyton Manning, or spending his free time warning Americans about how providing health benefits to his employees under the Affordable Care Act could raise the price of a large one-topping pizza. The company said later Thursday that it had "no plans to remove John from our communications", which it says includes pizza boxes or commercials. "He has excelled at every job he's ever held at Papa John's - from being an hourly customer service rep, to a delivery driver, store general manager, director of operations, franchisee and most recently President".
Chief Operating Officer Steve Richie will take over as CEO at the start of 2018.
Ritchie said he will focus on making it easier to order Papa John's from anywhere, including form tweets, text messages, and voice-activated devices.
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