Papa Johns
DENVER – Former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning recently sold Papa John’s restaurants in Denver two days before the National Football League named Pizza Hut as an official sponsor. The stores were sold to a Denver-based franchisee for an undisclosed amount.

“After six successful and rewarding years, Peyton Manning and Papa John’s International have sold their stake in 31 Papa John’s locations which were part of a joint-venture in the Denver, Colorado market,” Papa John’s said in a statement. “Peyton remains an official Papa John’s spokesperson and brand ambassador as part of his long-term agreement with the brand.”

Manning, who played at the quarterback position for the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos, became a Papa John’s franchisee in 2012. At the time, Manning and Papa John’s co-owned 21 restaurants in the Denver area. The franchisee that purchased the stores assumed ownership of all Papa John’s locations in the Denver market on Feb. 26.

“The new Denver market franchisee is an existing Papa John’s franchisee that owns a substantial number of Papa John’s locations in large markets, upholds the promise of better pizza and is a strong community partner,” the company said.

Schnatter recently stepped down as CEO of the company he founded following remarks criticizing the NFL for not resolving player protests during the National Anthem and blaming the protests for lower sales at Papa John’s.

The company’s earnings continue to struggle. In the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, 2017, Papa John’s posted net income attributable to the company of $28,509,000, down from $32,630,000 reported in the year-ago quarter. Revenues for the quarter totaled $467,606,000, up from $439,619,000 reported in the fourth quarter of 2016.

“We know our potential is so much greater than our results, and we are taking significant steps to reinvigorate our record of profitable growth and value creation,” Steve Ritchie, CEO and president, said in a statement at the time. “Actions are underway to improve our brand proposition, how we connect with customers, and how we operate at the unit level. These actions build on all the strengths of the Papa John's brand and include a fresh perspective around marketing driven by new media and creative partnerships, hiring a new PR partner, and bringing online a new engine to drive our Papa Rewards loyalty system. Based on these initiatives, we expect to see marked improvements in sales later in 2018. Our franchise partners in the US are fully aligned with our initiatives and are excited about this next chapter of the Papa John's brand.”