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Is Peyton Manning The Jock Carl Icahn?

Only the NFL could create a situation this dumb.

There was big news this week when it was revealed that a wealthy man with significant investments had decided to cut bait just before important negative news broke about the very thing he was getting away from.


Peyton Manning has been compared to a lot of people over the years, from Tom Brady and Brett Favre, to Joe Montana and Dan Marino, to his own family, father Archie and brother Eli. It would have been unfathomable not long ago to see parallels between Manning and Carl Icahn, but, hey, welcome to 2018.

The Denver Post reported on Wednesday that last month, Manning “sold off his stake in 31 Denver-area Papa John’s locations two days before the NFL dropped the pizza chain as its official sponsor.” That was not entirely accurate, because a Papa John’s spokesman was quoted as saying a new owner assumed control of Manning’s franchises on Feb. 26, while the NFL dropped Papa John’s on Feb. 27 before announcing Pizza Hut as its new official pizzeria on Feb. 28.

Either way, the NFL legend sold his pizza stores right before the NFL dropped the pizza chain like a slice of Papa John’s out of the hands of somebody who had just taken a bite of what they thought would be delicious pizza.

As terrible as Papa John’s is, it still has Manning on board for endorsements thanks to a long-term contract, and it remains a business partner of the majority of NFL teams, as well as of Major League Baseball. And the man who bought Manning’s pizza outlets said that he was not troubled by the NFL dropping Papa John’s, adding that this deal had been in the works “way before anything happened in the NFL,” and that the process started last summer.

It makes sense that the sale of 31 pizza establishments would be a months-long process, but the claim by Mike Pierce Jr. would hold more water if it hadn’t been five months ago that John Schattner, since ousted as CEO of his namesake chain, blamed Papa John’s declining sales on football players kneeling during the national anthem. Schattner’s easily-debunked load of baloney (soon possibly available as a Papa John’s topping?) laid the groundwork for the divorce of the horrendous eatery from the Goofus of American sports leagues. Given Manning’s ability to read the field, that would have been a fine time to start exploring a way out, and saying that the wheels started turning last summer rather than last fall doesn’t publicly look like quite so much of a whopper – and we can tell that he’s not afraid to fib with his quote that “Papa John’s is a great brand… the best pizza.”

Pierce did sell other Papa John’s franchises in order to get into the Denver market, and that’s a decent enough business move, getting into pizza delivery in a place where marijuana is legal. So, all the best of luck to him in this venture, which stinks like anchovies, but could be just the coincidental bit of timing claimed by everyone involved. If that is the case, it’s hilarious. If it turns out – and we’ll probably never find out – that the whole thing was an orchestrated way for Manning to scramble away from Papa John’s as best he could before the NFL disassociated itself, well, that’s just more hilarious, because unlike a stock dump onto buyers with near-immediate remorse, there isn’t even a hint of anything truly nefarious here other than the claims of every rich person involved that Papa John’s is a purveyor of something that can rightfully be called food.



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