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Papa John’s International, Inc.(NASDAQ: PZZA), the world’s third-largest pizza delivery company, today announced the promotion ofSteve Ritchieto Chief Executive Officer, effectiveJanuary 1, 2018.

Mr. Ritchie, 43, started withPapa John’sin 1996 as a customer service representative at$6per hour. In 2006, he became aPapa John’sfranchise owner and operator, then in 2010 began serving in increasing capacities of leadership in operations until being promoted to Chief Operating Officer in 2014. Ritchie was added to the succession plan for the company’s top job in 2015 when he was named President.

“I am so proud of Steve – he has excelled at every job he’s ever held at Papa John’s – from being an hourly customer service rep, to a delivery driver, store general manager, director of operations, franchisee and most recently President,” said Papa John’s founder,John Schnatter. “With 120,000 Papa John’s corporate and franchise employees, Steve will put the spotlight on our pizza and the most important ingredient – our team members. We couldn’t have a more proven leader to guide Papa John’s through its next stage of growth.”

As Chief Executive Officer,Mr. Ritchiewill lead Papa John’s global development and facilitate the brand’s marketing, digital and customer experience evolution. Recent hires ofMike Nettlesas Chief Information and Digital Officer,Brandon Rhotenas Chief Marketing Officer and the addition of a digital-first creative agency of record, Laundry Service, underpin the brand’s emphasis on digital marketing and technology. But the company’s primary focus will be on its team members.

“I am humbled to take on this role,” said Ritchie. “By focusing on our team members, we will deliver the world class experiences our customers deserve. At Papa John’s, any opportunity is achievable if you dedicate yourself to putting your best foot forward every day. I’m certain our future company leaders are delivering pizzas in one of our 5,000 stores around the world right now.”

At Papa John’s, 98% of restaurant managers are promoted from hourly positions – delivery drivers, customer service team members and shift managers – within the company.

In his duties as Chairman and founder, Schnatter will continue to champion the core principles that led to recognition as the industry leader in product quality and customer satisfaction. He will also pursue his personal passion for entrepreneurship, leadership development and education.