LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Papa John's International, Inc. has hired Nigel Travis as its new president and chief executive officer.

The appointment allows founder John Schnatter to hand over CEO duties, which he has managed since 1990. He also served as president in the five years since Blaine Hurst left that post. Schnatter will remain board chairman.

According to a news release, Travis is the former president and COO of Blockbuster Inc., and will step into the top post at Papa John's on April 1. He will report to the board (on which he will also be a member) and Schnatter.

"We are pleased to welcome Nigel to Papa John's," said Schnatter. "He is a world-class leader with a demonstrated ability to grow a brand in a competitive environment. ... His experience in leading and innovating at Blockbuster will be extremely valuable in growing our brand both within the U.S. and internationally."

For the past few years, Papa John's has battled sagging comparable-store sales, revenue declines and modest stock performance. In late 2004, Schnatter said he would consider stepping aside as president and CEO if he could not get the company turned around in the first 100 days of 2005 (read also Schnatter mulls stepping aside at Papa John's Pizza).

Travis will face a stiff challenge to move Papa John's, once a Wall Street darling, ahead again in a highly competitive pizza industry. As is the case for its two closest competitors, Pizza Hut and Domino's Pizza, long-term growth will center on Papa John's ability to grow overseas.

"I'm really excited about joining Papa John's and working with a talented management team and franchise family to continue to grow this wonderful brand worldwide," said Travis. "Papa John's is the recognized quality leader in pizza and I believe the company's best days are ahead. I believe this position builds on my experience of growing international brands with extensive franchise communities."

In addition to his work as president and COO at Blockbuster, Travis was the video rental giant's executive vice president and president over its worldwide stores division, as well as EVP and president over its worldwide retail operations. From 1994 to '99, he served in key leadership positions in the chain's international operations.

During Travis' tenure at Blockbuster, worldwide revenue grew from $3.9 billion in 1998 to $5.9 billion in 2003. He also was heavily involved in developing a worldwide system of 300 franchisees in 15 countries.

From 1985 to 1994, Travis served in various capacities for Grand Metropolitan PLC (London, England), including leadership positions at Burger King Corporation for five years. From 1991 to 1994, Travis served as managing director for Burger King's operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. He is credited with stabilizing the inherited base of 330 restaurants, restoring profitability to that business unit and leading the expansion to 650 restaurants in 20 countries. From 1989 to 1991, Travis was senior vice president of human resources for Burger King, leading all HR activities for the-then 45,000 company employees worldwide.

Travis, a British national, is a graduate of Middlesex University in London. He is currently the lead director for The Bombay Company, Inc.

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