Papa Johns taps Bank of America and Lazard as company struggles

Papa John’s has hired Bank of America and Lazard as financial advisers to counsel the beleaguered pizza chain as it tries to stem damage following last month’s very messy and public ouster of its founder, people familiar with the matter told CNBC on Friday.

The company’s shares have fallen by almost 45 percent over the last year as it grappled with weak sales and a public relations crisis following racially charged comments made last fall by founder and former Chairman and CEO John Schnatter that drew public outrage.

The company isn’t currently exploring a sale, said one of the people who was briefed on the board’s thinking. They requested anonymity because the information is confidential.

“While we recognize Papa John’s attraction as an acquisition candidate given its current turmoil and turnaround potential, we believe the likelihood for some type of strategic action is low without founder John Schnatter’s approval,” Peter Saleh, analyst at BTIG, wrote in a research note Friday. Saleh said he doesn’t think Schnatter, who has a roughly 30 percent stake in the company, has any interest in selling or stepping away, “making the math on shareholder approval of such an action more difficult, though not impossible.”

Papa John’s, Bank of America, investment bank Lazard declined to comment. Representatives for Schnatter were not immediately available for comment.

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