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Papa Murphy's [NASDAQ: FRSH] announced today that chief executive officer Ken Calwell has left the company and that effective immediately its chairwoman, Jean Birch, is appointed as its interim CEO.
The company said that Ken Calwell resigned as its chief executive officer and a board director in order to pursue other interests. Calwell had been the company's CEO since 2011.
Papa Murphy's board of directors has immediately initiated a search to identify a permanent chief executive. It will consider internal and external candidates. It also continues to search fill a board director's seat that was vacated by outgoing chairman John Barr's departure last September. Birch replaced Barr.
The environment for Papa Murphy's, a chain of nearly 1,500 outlets, where customers pick a prepared pizza and bake it at home, has been challenging. On the one hand, it has been able to continually sell franchise outlets and add company stores in the United States (see chart). On the other, last November its third quarter of 2016 closed with stores dropping in same-restaurant sales by 5.6 percent in franchises and 7.7 percent for company-owned restaurants.
"While the general climate in the quarter continued to be challenging, we believe we are at a key inflection point at Papa Murphy's, having successfully laid the groundwork for many of our long term strategic initiatives," stated Ms. Birch.
Birch was a member of the Papa Murphy's board since April 2015. She has over 26 years of restaurant leadership experience, previously serving as president of casual dining chain IHOP Restaurants, Inc., president of Romano's Macaroni Grill, and president of fast-casual Corner Bakery Café. She also held executive leadership roles within Yum Brands, including vice president, operations for Taco Bell, and senior director, concept development for Pizza Hut.
Birch expressed appreciation for ex-CEO Calwell for his leadership and service. "His efforts have positioned us well for the future and we wish him all the best as he begins the next chapter in his career," said Birch.