Louisville, Ky. -- Officials at the headquarters of No. 3 pizza chain Papa John's remained mum today on the surprise resignation of chief executive Nigel Travis.
Other than a vaguely worded press release announcing that Travis was resigning to "pursue another opportunity," industry observers had little clue as to why Travis was leaving the company. Travis joined Papa John's in 2005.
By Thursday afternoon, his name and biography had been removed from the Papa John's corporate Web site.
Papa John's stock is off nearly 50 percent in the past two months, to about $17 per share today from a mid-September high of $30.68.
Other pizza chains have been hit even harder, however. Domino's stock is trading for about $3.68, off from an April high of $15.18. Pizza Inn is trading for about $1.50 per share, off from a February high of about $3.09.
Papa John's domestic system-wide comparable store sales were up 1.7 percent for the third quarter ended Sept. 28 and 1.9 percent year-to-date. Revenues were up 6.5 percent for the quarter, while net income was up 60 percent.
Last week, the company unveiled a plan to aid franchisees struggling with a weak economy, including royalty relief and a reduction in cheese prices.
Travis had spearheaded a number of ventures during his tenure with Papa John's, including a focus on online ordering, an expansion of the company's menu and marketing tie-ins with movies. In mid-November, the company announced it had surpassed $1 million in orders via mobile Web devices since launching the technology in July.
Schnatter founded the company in 1985 in the back of his father's Indiana tavern, selling his prized 1972 Camaro to raise money for used equipment. Today, the company operates more than 3,300 domestic and international Papa John's restaurants in all 50 states and 29 countries. A restored replica of the Camaro Schnatter sold is parked in the lobby of the company's headquarters.