Papa John’s CFO to Depart Amid Executive Shakeup

The pizza chain’s finance chief is leaving after a stint of almost 20 years.
Lauren MuskettNovember 6, 2019
Papa John’s CFO to Depart Amid Executive Shakeup

The chief financial officer of Papa John’s International, Joe Smith, is leaving the company as part of a shakeup in the top ranks under new chief executive officer Rob Lynch.

Smith will leave the company next year after nearly 20 years at the company. He was promoted to CFO from senior vice president of global sales and development in April 2018. Smith will remain CFO while the company searches for a replacement.

The company also announced chief operating and growth officer Mike Nettles and chief marketing Officer Karlin Linhardt would leave the company after a short transition period. Other executive changes include Max Wetzel joining the company as chief commercial and marketing officer and Jim Norberg, who is currently the head of restaurant operations at the company, will take over as chief operating officer for North America.

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“As we introduce a more focused plan and strategic priorities for the company, we are realigning Papa John’s senior management, promoting leaders within the company, and adding proven talent,” Lynch said in a statement.

The changes come amid pressure from activist hedge fund investor Starboard Value, which announced an investment of $200 million in the company in February and installed its CEO, Jeffrey Smith, as chairman.

Lynch was named Papa John’s CEO in August after a tenure at Arby’s that saw 16 consecutive quarters of same-store sales growth.

Papa John’s reported third-quarter net sales of $403.7 million, beating analyst estimates of $386.9 million. The company also reported comparable sales in North America grew 1%, the first increase in nearly two years, compared with an average analyst estimate of -0.7%, according to data from Refinitiv. The company lost 10 cents per share for the quarter, up from a loss of 42 cents per share a year ago.

“While we recognize the recovery will take time and may have a few bumps along the way, we believe results this quarter demonstrate the turnaround is unfolding,” BTIG analyst Peter Saleh said in a note.

The company’s stock price was up 7.4% at one point before moderating. Shares were up 43% this year as of Tuesday.

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