Papa John’s Founder to Resign From Board, End Legal Battle With Pizza Chain

John Schnatter will step down once a new independent director is named, company says in an SEC filing

Papa John’s founder John Schnattner agreed on Tuesday to step down from the company’s board  and drop two outstanding lawsuits against the pizza chain he launched in 1984, signaling a likely end to the contentious battle between Schnatter and the company.

The company said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that it will work with Schnatter, who stepped down as chairman last summer, to find an independent director that isn’t affiliated with Starboard, the hedge fund that recently paid $250 million for a 10 percent stake in Papa John’s. Starboard CEO Jeffrey Smith was named company chairman following the deal.

Schnatter will resign from the board if the independent director is named by the end of April, when Papa John’s annual stockholder meeting is scheduled.

“I’m happy that we were able to enter into this agreement and allow the new leadership being implemented by Jeff Smith and Starboard to help Papa John’s regain its strength and market position,” Schnatter told CNBC.

Schnatter, who still owns about 30 percent of the company, has been locked in a bitter legal battle with Papa John’s since he stepped down as chief executive in 2017 after months of turmoil following his criticism of the NFL over player protests, blaming them for low pizza sales.

Papa John’s stock, which has taken a beating in the last year, increased 2.5 percent in early-trading on Tuesday.