Papa John’s to open global headquarters in Atlanta next year

The pizza restaurant company Papa John’s International will open a 200-employee global headquarters in metro Atlanta next year at a site to be determined. The deal, announced Sept. 17 by the company and Gov. Brian Kemp, involves “government incentives” that the state would not disclose.

The company’s executive headquarters is currently in the metro area of its original hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, and it will maintain a headquarters there for certain departments after the metro Atlanta move, according to a spokesperson.

Papa John’s is rebuilding its image after disastrous controversies about politics and racism involving the company’s founder and namesake John Schnatter, which also caused a bitter corporate leadership struggle. The metro Atlanta move is pitched partly as helping with that rebuilding.

In 2017, Schnatter — then the company’s CEO and public face in commercials — criticized the National Football League for not stopping players from kneeling during the national anthem in a controversial silent protest related to the Black Lives Matter movement over racism and police brutality, which Schnatter claimed was hurting pizza sales. His stance drew online support from White racist groups and ended an NFL sponsorship deal. In 2018, Schnatter used a racial slur during an internal conversation with public relations consultants attempting to help him and the company deal with the controversy. He was forced out in the ensuing controversy, but still maintains an ownership share.

In press releases about the metro Atlanta move, the company said the region’s diversity was among the reasons for the decision. The Papa John’s department of “diversity, equity and inclusion” is among those that will move to the area.

The company aims to open the headquarters by summer 2021. “The company is currently in discussions with a number of potential office locations throughout the metro Atlanta area and expects to complete the selection process by the end of 2020,” said spokesperson Jeff Matthews. “The company intends to create 200 positions but hasn’t provided more details on the eventual size of its office. As you can imagine, one of the many considerations behind the selection of metro Atlanta was government incentives, which will depend upon final hiring plans.”

The Kentucky office will remain the headquarters of the company’s IT, supply chain and legal teams. The company will maintain an international operations headquarters in metro London, U.K.

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