LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Papa John’s International Inc. has announced several executive changes including a new chief operating officer and chief commercial and marketing officer. In addition, the company reported a quarterly North American comparable sales increase for the first time in two years. The company’s stock on the Nasdaq was also trading at $60.68 per share in the late morning of Nov. 6, which compared to a Nov. 5 close of $57.19 per share.

Jim Norberg

The pizza giant named Jim Norberg as COO for North America. Norberg joins the company after working as Papa John’s chief of restaurant operations. 

Max Wetzel, who previously worked with PPG Industries, will join the company as chief commercial and marketing officer starting on Nov. 18. Wetzel’s portfolio will include marketing, menu strategy, product innovation, customer experience and a new project management office. 

After 20 years with Papa John’s, Chief Financial Officer Joe Smith will also leave the company. He will continue in his role a new CFO is hired. 

“On behalf of the entire Papa John’s team, 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,” said David Lynch, Papa John’s president and CEO.

Joe Smith

Mike Nettles, chief operating and growth officer, and Karlin Linhardt, chief marketing officer, will leave the company after the transition.

“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 added. “The strong, streamlined team has more clearly defined responsibilities and priorities, which I believe will empower our senior leaders to make quicker, better decisions, collaborate more effectively and focus investment and effort on the key drivers of Papa John’s future growth and success.”

Lynch was named to this position in August 2019. He took over for Steve Ritchie who led the pizza chain through a public dispute with its founder John H. Schnatter. The conflict began in December 2017, and ultimately Schnatter stepped down as CEO following comments he made about the National Football League leadership, which garnered criticism.

Other recent management additions include: 

  • Marvin Boakye, chief people officer
  • Madeline Chadwich, senior vice president, communications and corporate affairs
  • Justin Falciola, chief insights and technology officer
  • Shane Hutchins, chief supply chain officer 
  • Caroline Oyler, chief legal and risk officer.

The 1 percent comparable store sales growth in North America in the third quarter ended Sept. 29 compared to a 10 percent decline in the previous year’s third quarter. The company sustained sales declines following Schnatter’s comments and he left the company in 2018.

Comparable sales growth in international restaurants in this year’s third quarter was 1.6 percent, which compared to a decline of 3.3 percent in the previous year’s third quarter.

Net income of $385,000 compared to a net loss of $13.3 million in the previous year’s third quarter. Because of a loss of $3.5 million due to preferred stock dividends and accretion, net loss attributable to common shareholders was $3.1 million in the third quarter of 2019. Total revenues increased 4.8 percent to $403.7 million from $385.2 million.

Over the first nine months of the fiscal year, Papa John’s reported net income of $7 million, which was down 54 percent from $15,342 million, or 47 cents per share, in the same time of the previous year. Because of a loss of $9 million due to preferred stock dividends and accretion over the first nine months of 2019, the net loss attributable to common shareholders was $2 million. Nine-month revenues were $1,201.7 million, down 5 percent from $1,265.3 million.