Reuters: Papa John's asks for takeover bids

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Louisville-based Papa John’s International expects sales in its key North America division to decline 1 to 5 percent in 2019, projections that CEO Steve Ritchie said he is “not proud of” but that reflect the “consumer sentiment challenges” the pizza company continues to face.

Papa John’s reported a domestic sales decline of 8.1 percent in the final quarter of 2018, in line with analyst expectations.

Ritchie said some of the company’s initiatives, such as a revamped loyalty program, are yielding early results.

“We are seeing very solid improvement in February,” Ritchie said, without giving specific numbers.

Ritchie added that the $200 million investment from hedge fund Starboard Value announced earlier this month gives the company resources and restaurant turn-around expertise.

Papa John’s remains locked in a court battle with estranged founder John Schnatter.

Schnatter made public on Tuesday a lawsuit he filed earlier this month under seal, which claims the other board members have taken steps to unfairly “entrench” themselves to the detriment of shareholders.

The lawsuit seeks to invalidate the “poison pill” that the company’s board adopted last year with the apparent purpose of keeping Schnatter from adding to his 30 percent stake in the company or mounting a takeover bid.

Schnatter says in court filings that the poison pill is so restrictive that company could trigger it – diluting the value of his stock – if he even speaks to other shareholders about whether they support the board.

Papa John’s shareholders will meet on April 30 to choose board members, among other business.

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Chris Otts reports for about business and economic topics, higher education and local / state government. He joined WDRB News in 2013 after seven years with The Courier-Journal. Got a tip? Chris is at 502-585-0822 and