• Turnover at the top: Langstaff, Papa John's marketing chief, gone

LOUISVILLE, Ky.--Papa John's International announced that chief marketing officer Gary Langstaff is no longer with the company.

According to a news release, Langstaff joined the No. 3 pizza chain in December 2003, bringing with him years of fast-food marketing experience gained at Burger King and Hardee's. The release did not explain his departure, but it did say the company will use an executive recruiting firm to find a replacement.

In the interim, chief operations officer Bill Van Epps, who also leads PJ's international franchising division, will assume Langstaff's duties.

Langstaff's hiring last year was clearly welcome news on Wall Street, where Papa John's stock rose 10 percent when the news was announced Dec. 17 (see Papa John's appoints Langstaff marketing chief, stock spikes). His position had been officially vacant since October 2001, when former marketing vice president Syl Sosnowski left the company. Mary Ann Palmer, PJ's chief resource officer assumed Sosnowski's duties for the next two years, until leaving the company in October 2003.

After reporting comparable-store sales gains in January and February, the chain's comps have dropped for three consecutive months: March, 3.7 percent; April, 5 percent; and May 3.4 percent. Its June numbers will be reported on July 6.

According to the release, the company won't change its current marketing plan, which includes the use of new products and promotional tie-ins with DVD movie giveaways and Internet music downloads.

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