- Papa John's CFO Joe Smith will be departing the company in January after nearly 20 years, the company announced Wednesday.
- Smith has served as CFO for just over a year and a half. He is one of several C-suite execs at the pizza chain to leave the company as it updates its management structure to align with a new strategy, the company said.
- The restructuring comes two years after John Schnatter, the company's founder and former CEO, acrimoniously split with the company after sparking controversy for racially insensitive remarks.
Rob Lynch, who joined Papa John's as president and CEO this fall, said the departure of Smith and other changes are part of a more focused plan for the company.
"After two months as CEO, I'm more excited than ever by the dedication, drive and resilience of Papa John's team members and franchisees," said Lynch, former president of Arby's. "We are realigning Papa John's senior management, promoting leaders within the company and adding proven talent."
Lynch said Smith will be staying until a replacement is found to secure a smooth transition. "I want to express gratitude to Joe Smith for his dedication to the company, his commitment to a smooth transition and the big impact he has made in the many important roles he has served here, including as CFO since April 2018," he said.
Schnatter, who sold a sizable portion of his stake in the company this month but remains a large shareholder, also praised the departing CFO. "Joe Smith is a really, really good CFO and he's got total integrity," he told Fox Business. "Joe's not a spin artist. He's not a smoke-and-mirrors. He's not a bells-and-whistles, guy. He's a straight shooter."
In other changes the company announced, Max Wetzel, former vice president of consumer brands and chief transformation officer at PPG Industries, will step in as chief commercial and marketing officer, and Jim Norberg, the company's senior vice president and chief of restaurant operations, has been named COO for North America.
COO Mike Nettles and Chief Marketing Officer Karlin Linhardt are leaving the company.
Schnatter was critical of Linhardt's tenure at Papa John's. He told Fox Business the outgoing COO was often at odds with Lynch and Jeff Smith, the board's chairman.
Following the company's Wednesday earnings call, in which the reshuffling was announced, Papa John's stock jumped more than 3% in pre-market trading, CNBC reported. Same-store sales within the U.S. also turned positive for the first time since 2017.