Papa John’s founder John Schnatter will step down in the wake of his controversial comments about NFL protests.
Schnatter, founder and CEO of Papa John’s Pizza, is stepping down as CEO as the company’s stock has tumbled in the fallout from his controversial statements, according to the Chicago Tribune. Schnatter blamed slowing sales at the pizza chain on the outcry surrounding players kneeling during the national anthem. Many players followed former quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who kneeled to protest police mistreatment of black people.
Schnatter told stock analysts in a conference call that the company’s sponsorship of the NFL was hurting its sales because of the protests.
The pizza chain apologized two weeks later after white supremacist groups praised Schnatter’s comments. The white supremacist website Daily Stormer had declared Papa John’s the official pizza of the self-described “alt-right,” according to Newsweek, though Papa John’s officials repudiated the statement.
But shares are down 13 percent, according to the Chicago Tribune, which reduced the value of Schnatter’s personal 9.5 million shares by $84 million.
Since the beginning of the year, Papa John’s stock has dropped 30 percent. Before 2017, the pizza chain had hit an all-time high of $90 a share, according to Forbes, and Schnatter was listed on the Forbes World’s Billionaires list. His current net worth was estimated at $775 million, according to Forbes.
The new CEO will be chief operating officer Steve Ritchie, who began as an employee making pizzas 21 years ago and rose to own a nine-location franchise before being named COO three years ago.
Other CEOs have been stepping down, according to the Wall Street Journal: Chipotle founder Steve Ells, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and Whole Foods CEO Walter Robb have all announced departures in the last few months, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Schnatter, 56, will remain chairman of the Papa John’s board. He officially steps down Jan. 1.