Papa John’s stock took a dive Thursday afternoon following The Wall Street Journal’s report that Trian Fund Management LP, considered a serious potential bidder for the brand, took itself out of the running. By mid-afternoon, the pizza chain’s stock plummeted more than 15 percent to $48.82.

According to the WSJ, “people familiar with the matter,” said the activist hedge fund, which owns a stake in Wendy’s, decided not to pursue a bid. In early October, reports surfaced that Trian was looking into a takeover bid, and contacted the struggling chain to collect information. Trian owns a roughly 13 percent stake in Wendy’s and holds three seats on the company’s board. Nelson Peltz, Trian’s co-founder and Wendy’s chairman, reportedly invited Papa John’s founder John Schnatter to meet the burger chain’s leaders this past June to discuss a possible deal

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On that account, The Wall Street Journal reported the two companies held preliminary merger discussions, but the possibility fizzled following a July 11 report that Schnatter used a racial slur during an in-company conference call.

Papa John’s began looking at a possible sale in September. Per that report from Reuters, Papa John’s reached out to potential buyers to ask them to submit offers. According to sources, the 5,000-plus-unit pizza chain sent out about an auction to sell itself to other companies and private-equity firms.

The company tapped investment banks in August to conduct a strategic review of its business.

The Wall Street Journal said “some bidders remain interested in potentially taking a stake,” but none are “currently considering buying the whole company.”

Binding offers are due next week, the publication noted.

North America same-store sales dropped 9.8 percent, year-over-year, in the third-quarter period that ended September 30 at Papa John’s, which has reported four consecutive quarters of declining comps.

In Q3, Papa John’s also closed 67 franchise units. With 16 openings, Papa John’s trimmed a net of 51 restaurants (one company-run store opened and one closed as well) to bring the franchised total to 2,709. Papa John’s refranchised 31 restaurants in Q3. There were 647 domestic company stores as of September 30 and 1,891 international for a total base of 5,247 locations.

Year-to-date, Papa John’s has closed 146 North America franchises and opened 60 for a net loss of 86 units. It’s also refranchised 62 and shuttered five corporate restaurants

Finance, Story, Papa Johns