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Papa John’s names Karlin Linhardt CMO

The former McDonald’s and Subway executive will take the marketing reins at the pizza chain.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Papa John’s on Thursday named former Subway executive Karlin Linhardt as chief marketing officer.

Linhardt gives the Louisville, Ky.-based pizza chain an experienced marketing executive who has worked with multiple brands. Before Subway, Linhardt was a senior consultant of business and digital strategies for professional services company Accenture.

He also spent 10 years with McDonald’s, where he led initiatives such as Happy Meals, the Dollar Menu and premium burger products.

He takes on marketing for a 5,300-unit chain working to turn itself around following a disastrous 2018 that saw the downfall of its founder, CEO and longtime spokesman, John Schnatter, which contributed to steep sales declines.

But he already has a new brand ambassador in former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal, who was recently named to the Papa John’s board.

“The addition of Karlin as global chief marketing officer is one of the many significant steps we’ve taken to improve our brand differentiation, which includes enhancing our quality positioning,” CEO Steve Ritchie said in a statement.

Linhardt left Subway in 2017 after eight months on the job amid a franchisee uprising at the company. He replaces Brandon Rhoten, who left Papa John’s last May amid slumping sales. Rhoten quickly took a position at sandwich chain Potbelly.

“Strong marketing leadership is critical to driving the success of our brand and our business,” Bo Knapp, chairman of Papa John’s franchise advisory committee, said in a statement. “Karlin appreciates the important role franchisees play in the organization and understands the needs of the franchise system.”

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