John Schnatter hires a financial adviser on Papa John’s

The adviser will review the company’s financial prospects.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Papa John’s founder John Schnatter has hired advisers to review the company’s financial prospects, suggesting he could take an active role in a potential sale of the pizza chain.

According to an Securities and Exchange Commission filing late Friday, Schnatter will explore “alternatives for increasing shareholder value” and could have discussions with Papa John’s or a third party to determine whether to go forward with a transaction.

Exactly what kind of transaction is uncertain. The filing said that Schnatter currently does not have any plans or proposals for the company. And the listed possibilities of the financial review are broad—including everything from a sale or merger to changing the company’s bylaws.

But Schnatter owns nearly 31% of Papa John’s shares and until a recent quiet period has been agitating to return to a role with the company where, just one year ago, he was its chairman, CEO and primary spokesman.

CNBC reported in September that Schnatter reached out to private-equity firms in the hopes of buying back his company—reports that Schnatter denied.

Papa John’s has been exploring a sale in recent weeks, though reports recently suggested that buyers have backed off a full purchase of the company, interested instead in taking a partial ownership.

A spokesman for Schnatter did not have a comment on Friday.

Papa John’s stock is down 22% since reports of buyers backing off first surfaced.

The filing adds another wrinkle to the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the Louisville, Ky.-based pizza chain, uncertainty that began a year ago after Schnatter seemed to blame NFL player protests for his chain’s weakening same-store sales.

Schnatter later acknowledged making racial slurs during a conference call with a marketing firm that was intended to help him avoid such missteps. That led the company to end his founder’s agreement and his marketing arrangement, which had made Schnatter the face of the chain.

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