Who is to blame for the falling fortunes of former pizza giant, Papa John’s? That depends entirely upon who you ask. Former CEO John Schnatter wants everyone to know that he certainly doesn’t think it’s him and is currently placing the blame upon current CEO, Steve Ritchie.
For Steve Ritchie, the love affair with pizza began when he was just 18 and purchased his first pizzeria. Even though he was still a senior at Seneca High School in Kentucky, Ritchie had correctly determined the business that he was going to dedicated his life towards. Although Pizza Man was a struggling company at the time that Ritchie took it over, the 16 year old was able to make the company last for two additional years while also attending school full time. After the business closed, Ritchie had to move on to the next career venture, one that would ultimately place him as CEO of the third most popular pizza chain in the United States.
It was a pure love for the pizza industry that drove him to forge a path very different from other modern day CEOs. Most heads of companies in the 21st century hold some sort of college degree, but Ritchie skipped at type of education. Instead, he began working at Papa John’s for $6 an hour in 1996.
Although the entry level job at Papa John’s could have been a gateway to another industry, Ritchie turned it into a career. he quickly rose to manager and multi-unit supervisor. Other positions he held at the company included director of global operations, president, and chief operating officer. If asked, would profess a great love for the brand, and claim that his strongest friendships were found within the company.
In January of 2018, Ritchie was named . Although this should have been a massive career move for him, the promotion has since been marred by former CEO and founder of the company, Schnatter. Although Schnatter resigned form his position as CEO after admitting to using a racial slur, the founder of the pizza chain continues to hold a 30 share in the company. He also retains a position on the board. He has repeatedly said he is not interested in severing ties with the company.
Schnatter also disputes that the company’s financial growth problems have anything to do with him. Over 12 months in 2018, the company’s market value decreased by half. Many, including members of the board and Steve Ritchie, associate the decline in market shares with Schnatter’s racial slurs and controversial commentary on the NFL and healthcare.
But for Schnatter, these are mere excuses. Although he initially praised Ritchie’s ability to serve as a CEO and his devotion to the company, Schnatter has since changed his tune. Now he claims that he was planning to fire Ritchie before stepping down as CEO. He further claims that Ritchie has called him an “a–hole” in a face to face meeting.
The company certainly seems to be supporting the current CEO over the founder. The president of the company’s franchise association, Vaughn Frey, recently stated that he believes it is time for Schnatter to move on from the company entirely. Mike Nettles, who works as the Chief Information Officer, has called Ritchie one of the best CEOs in the food industry.