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Papa John of Papa John's Steps Down as CEO Amidst Controversy

Papa John of Papa John's Steps Down as CEO Amidst Controversy

John Schattner - better known as "Papa John", patriarch of the famous pizza chain - is stepping down as CEO of the company after months of turmoil following his criticism of the National Football League in the wake of player protests.

After Schnatter's comments, white supremacists vowed to make Papa John's the official pizza of the so-called alt-right.

John Schnatter, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Papa John's International, Inc., with a display of pizzas to celebrate the grand opening of Papa John's 4000th restaurant on Friday Sept. 14, 2012, in New Hyde Park, N.Y.

"I see mostly strategic continuity, but I expect Steve Ritchie to also put his own imprint" on Papa John's", he said. In 2010, he took on a co-CEO, Jude Thompson, but that arrangement ended the following year.

Steve Ritchie, 43, has been promoted to the CEO of the company.

"We want to focus on what we do best - our people and our pizza", Collins said.

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Schnatter, who founded the pizza chain in 1984, will remain as chairman of the board. That has reduced Schnatter's 9.5 million share stake in the company by almost $84 million. Shares of the pizza chain have lost about a third of their value this year, putting them on course for the first annual decline since 2008.

Forbes' numbers don't account for Papa John's recent sales slump - nor for Schnatter's controversial comments response last November. Whether Schnatter will continue as spokesman has not been decided, Ritchie said. Papa John's shares fell 8.5 percent in a single day during November - the biggest drop in two years - after same-store sales missed analysts' estimates.

The website posted a picture of a Papa John's pizza with a swastika fashioned from pepperoni.

Almost two weeks later, Papa John's apologized in a statement on Twitter, and a spokesman further said the company condemns "racism in all forms and any and all hate groups that support it".

"We believe in the right to protest inequality and support the players' movement to create a new platform for change", the company said.

Richie, who opened up his own Papa John's franchise in 2006, has been COO since 2014.

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