Papa John's (PZZA) was rallying by some 5% to $44.84 shortly after 3 p.m. ET Friday following news that the beleaguered pizza chain has hired two banks to stabilize its business -- sparking rumors of a possible buyout deal.
PZZA has hired Bank of America (BAC) and Lazard (LAZ) as advisers as the company faces mounting pressure from ousted founder and former CEO John Schnatter, sources confirmed to TheStreet. Schnatter, who resigned as chairman earlier this summer after admitting to using a racial slur during a conference call, has been trying to regain control of the company, even suing PZZA after he stepped down.
Schnatter had already resigned as CEO months earlier amid controversial comments he made over the NFL's policy on players refusing to stand during the U.S. national anthem. That controversy, along with Schnatter's choice of words during the conference call, resulted in Papa John's reporting a 6.1% decline in comparable store sales in its most recent quarter.
Papa John's stock has fallen some 40% over the past 12 months. However, the company has actively tried to distance itself from Schnatter since the latest controversy, although the former CEO is the company's largest shareholder and remains on its board.
Current CEO Steve Ritchie, who took over for Schnatter in January, has announced plans to move on from the company's namesake with a new marketing campaign. The chain is also removing Schnatter's image from company promotions.