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Papa John’s overhauls its management team

Max Wetzel was named chief commercial and marketing officer, and several executives, including CFO Joe Smith, will leave the company.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Papa John’s on Wednesday made several changes to its management team as CEO Rob Lynch reshapes the company’s leadership two months into his tenure.

The Louisville, Ky.-based pizza chain named Max Wetzel, a former executive with PPG Industries, its new chief commercial and marketing officer. He will oversee marketing, menu strategy, product innovation and a new project management office.

CFO Joe Smith, meanwhile, will leave the company next year after 20 years with Papa John’s. In addition, Chief Operating and Growth Officer Mike Nettles and Chief Marketing Officer Karlin Linhardt will also leave the company.

Papa John’s also said that Jim Norberg, the company’s chief of restaurant operations, will be chief operating officer for North America. Jack Swaysland will be chief operating officer for international.

In a statement, Lynch said the company promoted leaders and added proven talent.

“The strong, streamlined team has more clearly defined priorities and responsibilities, 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 said.

The management changes come after Papa John’s said its North America same-store sales rose 1%, the first increase in its home market in nearly two years as the company starts recovering from a sales slide precipitated by the downfall of founder John Schnatter.

The company’s same-store sales are nevertheless down 8.8% on a two-year, stacked basis. That’s an improvement of 300 basis points from the 11.8% two-year decline in the second quarter.

The results sent shares of Papa John’s soaring more than 5% in morning trading Wednesday.

On the company’s third quarter earnings call Wednesday, Lynch said that the new marketing campaign featuring Shaquille O’Neal has worked better than expected. He also detailed what the company needs to do to regain its momentum following a difficult two years.

“Papa John’s needs to get back to what made this brand great,” he said. “All pizza was not created equal. In a sea of sameness, we have better ingredients and better pizza.”

Lynch was named CEO in August, replacing Steve Ritchie, who stepped into the role in late 2017 following Schnatter’s resignation. The former Arby’s executive has quickly moved to reshape the Papa John’s management team.

The company named several other new executives as part of the executive staff changes: Marvin Boakye has been named chief people and diversity officer, expanding the chief people officer title he’s held since January. He will assume leadership of the company’s diversity, equity and inclusion team.

Madeline Chadwick was named senior vice president, communications and corporate affairs; Justin Falciola, chief insights and technology officer; Shane Hutchins, chief supply chain officer; and Caroline Oyler, chief legal and risk officer.

Lynch called Wetzel a “transformational leader” who “earned a reputation as a strategic and growth-oriented consumer marketer” at PPG and Heinz. “He will lead the company’s efforts to reestablish the superiority of our pizza with consumers across our various customer platforms,” he said.

UPDATE: This story has been updated with more details. 

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