UPDATE: May 23, 2019: Papa John's founder John Schnatter sold $157.5 million worth of his stock in the pizza chain, or 3.4 million shares, to investment banker UBS, according to a Thursday SEC filing. He will not sell any more of his shares until Aug. 19 per the terms of the sale.
UPDATE: May 15, 2019: Papa John's founder John Schnatter sold $6 million worth of his stock in the company, or 1.2% of his previously 31% stake, according to a Tuesday SEC filing.
- Papa John's founder John Schnatter may sell part or all of his 31% stake in the pizza chain, according to an SEC filing. He has solicited financial advisors for advice on the matter.
- The filing also revealed that Papa John's has terminated Schnatter's contractual rights as its founder, leaving him with no formal role at the restaurant. Schnatter's term as board director ended April 30 and he did not pursue reelection. He and the company have yet to appoint a new independent director.
- The company will report its earnings for the first quarter of fiscal 2019 after the bell Tuesday. Wall Street analysts predict it will again report sliding same-store sales growth and expects revenue of $385.5 million.
After more than a year of turmoil, Papa John's controversial founder has shaved down his stake in the beleagured restaurant chain to 19%. It's sure to be a welcomed move — the pizza chain paid dearly for Schnatter's racist comments during an investor call last year, which kick-started a chain of events that dragged the company's sales and reputation through the mud.
Papa John's spent $3.6 million to scrub Schnatter's image, once synonymous with the brand, from its marketing materials. And the company reported a revenue nosedive of 20% last year, as well as a 7% same-store sales decrease following consumer backlash, later prompting intervention by activist investor Starboard.
Now, with new board members appointed — including Shaquille O'Neal, who also serves as a brand ambassador — and Schnatter out as director as of April 30, the company could be poised for a new chapter.
But it's unclear whether these events will remain a dark cloud over the brand. With consumer interest in mission-based, ethically minded companies at an all-time high, customers may not be inclined to return to a tarnished brand when there is so much competition to choose from. Perhaps anticipating this, Papa John's is looking to roll out cheaper $6 pizzas to sharpen its competitive edge against heavyweights Domino's and Pizza Hut, which already sell value pies.
Schnatter won't be able to offload any more shares for a few more months, but if he does eventually give up his stake, Papa John's could regain control of the future of its board and move back toward growth.