FILE PHOTO – The Papa John’s store in Westminster, Colorado, U.S. August 1, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
(Reuters) – Papa John’s International Inc (PZZA.O) is set to name Rob Lynch as the pizza chain’s new chief executive officer, Bloomberg reported late on Monday, barely 19 months after Steve Ritchie took over as top executive following a bitter board dispute.
Lynch, the president of Arby’s Restaurant Group Inc, will succeed Ritchie, and the management change will be made as early as Tuesday, the report said, citing a person with knowledge of the matter.
The development comes amid Papa John’s struggle due to steep competition and slowing sales, while the pizza chain also reported a 12% decline in 2018 revenue.
Ritchie took over as chief executive last year after company founder John Schnatter came under fire for criticizing the National Football League’s leadership over national anthem protests by players.
Schnatter stepped down from the company’s board earlier this year, as part of a settlement resolving a bitter dispute for control of the world’s third-largest pizza chain.
The negative publicity, which dented the pizza chain’s sales last year, led the Louisville, Kentucky-based company to name former basketball star Shaquille O’Neal as a board member, brand ambassador and investor.
Activist investment firm Starboard Value LP had pushed for a change at Papa John’s in the first quarter.
Starboard Chief Executive Jeff Smith currently serves as the board chairman of Papa John’s. Earlier this year, the hedge fund investor unveiled an investment of up to $250 million in the company.
Papa John’s and Arby’s did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comment, outside regular business hours.
Reporting by Aishwarya Nair in Bengaluru; editing by Gopakumar Warrier and Sherry Jacob-Phillips