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Papa John's founder says the chain's pizza tastes different after eating more than 40 in 30 days

CNBC logo CNBC 11/26/2019 Amelia Lucas
  • Papa John's founder John Schnatter said that he believes that the pizza chain has changed its recipe.
  • Schnatter was ousted as chairman from the company more than a year ago.
  • He also said that Papa John's new CEO Rob Lynch does not have a passion for quality or people.
John Schnatter wearing a suit and tie: John Schnattner, former founder of Papa John's.© Provided by CNBC John Schnattner, former founder of Papa John's.

Papa John's founder John Schnatter thinks that the pizza chain has changed its recipe.

"I've had over 40 pizzas in the last 30 days, and it's not the same pizza, it's not the same product," Schnatter said in an interview with WDRB, a Louisville, Kentucky Fox affiliate.

The interview was Schnatter's first in more than a year. After he built the company on "better ingredients, better pizza," Papa John's ousted Schnatter as chairman in July 2018, leading him to file several lawsuits against the company. He dismissed his claims as part of a settlement with Papa John's and has been selling out of his stake in the chain.

Schnatter's resignation had followed his use of a racially charged word on a conference call in May 2018.

In the interview, Schnatter said that former CEO Steve Ritchie, who resigned from Papa John's in August, and the board of directors used the incident to "steal the company."

The embattled pizza chain is trying to turn around its image and its business, helped by an investment by activist hedge fund Starboard Value in February. As part of the deal, Starboard's CEO Jeff Smith became chairman of the pizza chain's board. The company appointed Rob Lynch, the former president of Arby's, as CEO earlier this year.

"He doesn't really have a passion for quality, and probably most important — he doesn't have a passion for people," Schnatter said.

Shares of Papa John's were trading down less than 1% Tuesday morning. The stock is up 55% so far this year. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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