Papa John’s founder, spokesperson and current chief operating officer John Schnatter will hand off the CEO  ball to Steve Ritchie on January 1, 2018.  Schnatter will be stepping over to serve the company as chairman of the board, and Ritchie will focus on making the pizza available via more devices and methods of ordering, according to this article by

It was widely reported earlier this year that Schnatter criticized and blamed slow sales growth on controversy surrounding NFL players taking a knee in protest during the national anthem. Now, there is much speculation about that criticism possibly being the reason for the change. further reported that the company has not yet decided if Schnatter will remain the company spokesperson.

In the company’s press release, Schnatter  said that he is proud of Ritchie, who started at Papa Johns as a store employee before becoming a franchise owner and making his way to the role of  chief operating officer in 214 and president in 2015.  Ritchie will now lead the global development of the company.

“I am humbled to take on this role, “Ritchie said in the press release.  “By focusing on our team members, we will deliver the world class experiences our customers deserve. “