John Schnatter | Courtesy of Business Wire

Papa John’s founder John Schnatter has retained a financial adviser “to assist him in reviewing the financial prospects of the Company and in assessing alternatives for increasing shareholder value,” according to a report to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The filing is vague about what alternatives could be up for consideration and doesn’t say who Schnatter hired as his financial adviser. It does note that he has no plans or proposals at this time, though Schnatter has previously expressed interest in regaining control of the Louisville-based pizza chain, possibly by partnering with investors.

The SEC filing states that Schnatter “has had and may continue to have discussions” with Papa John’s and third parties.

Schnatter, who owns just under a 31 percent stake in Papa John’s, was ousted after it was revealed that he used a racial slur on a conference call. He has since been battling the company and criticizing its existing leadership.

The company’s board of directors adopted a “poison pill” to prevent Schnatter from taking over, and the company has removed his image from its marketing and product materials. It also has attempted to move on by highlighting franchisees, managers and others within the chain.

Although its third-quarter earnings report was generally better than expected, Papa John’s still reported a 9.8 percent decline in North American same-store sales and a 160 percent nosedive in net income, a loss of $13 million compared to the third quarter of 2017.

The company’s leadership is entertaining possible acquisition and investment offers from outside groups with advising help from the investment banks Bank of America and Lazard, though analysts have warned that Schnatter’s behavior could deter suitors.

CNBC reported in late November that one potential buyer, the investment firm Trian Fund Management, has backed away and other groups may only be interested in a stake in Papa John’s. Private equity firms KKR & Co. and Roark Capital also were reported as possible interested parties in the past.

As of the late afternoon, Papa John’s shares was down 1.9 percent to $44.19.

Caitlin Bowling
Louisville native Caitlin Bowling has covered the local restaurant and retail scene since 2014. After graduating from the Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, Caitlin got her start at a newspaper in the mountains of North Carolina where she won multiple state awards for her reporting. Since returning to Louisville, she’s written for Business First and Insider Louisville, winning awards for health and business reporting and becoming a go-to source for business news. In addition to restaurants and retail business, Caitlin covers real estate, economic development and tourism. Email Caitlin at [email protected]