(Adds analyst comment, background; updates shares)
Nov 6 (Reuters) - Papa John’s International Inc said on Wednesday its finance head would leave the company next year as new Chief Executive Officer Rob Lynch made a slew of top level changes to turn around the pizza chain’s stuttering business.
Lynch, who was previously president of Arby’s Restaurant Group Inc, took over the top job in August and was tasked by activist investor Starboard Value to improve Papa John’s sales, which have been dented by the negative publicity surrounding its founder John Schnatter.
Schnatter resigned as CEO in 2017 after he came under fire for criticizing the National Football League’s leadership over national anthem protests by players.
Papa John’s announced at least five other executive changes, including the appointment of Max Wetzel, a former top executive at chemicals company PPG Industries, as chief commercial and marketing officer.
The company said it has started looking for a replacement for Chief Financial Officer Joe Smith.
Lynch said the “streamlined” management team will take quicker decisions on a strategy to get the company past Schnatter’s image, which had adorned its advertising materials and pizza boxes.
The company said its third-quarter comparable sales in North America turned positive for the first time in nearly two years, rising 1%, compared with analysts’ average estimate of a 0.7% fall, according IBES data from Refinitiv.
“While we recognize the recovery will take time and may have a few bumps along the way, we believe results this quarter demonstrate the turnaround is unfolding,” BTIG analyst Peter Saleh said in a note.
Shares of the 35-year-old company were up 7.4% at $61.38. (Reporting by Uday Sampath in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)
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