(Adds details, company background; share movement)
Nov 6 (Reuters) - Papa John's International Inc said on Wednesday its finance head would leave the company next year as new Chief Executive Officer Rob Lynch makes top level changes to turn around the pizza chain's business.
The company has started looking for a replacement for Chief Financial Officer Joe Smith and said it had hired Max Wetzel, a former top executive at chemicals company PPG Industries , as chief commercial and marketing officer.
Lynch, who was previously president of Arby's Restaurant Group Inc, took over the top job in August and is tasked with improving Papa John's sales, which has been dented by the negative publicity surrounding its founder John Schnatter.
Schnatter resigned as CEO in 2017 after he came under fire for criticizing the National Football League's leadership over national anthem protests by players.
The company's attempt to get past Schnatter's image, which had adorned its advertising materials and pizza boxes, through a revamp of its marketing efforts seems to have helped its quarterly performance.
The company said third-quarter comparable sales in North America turned positive for the first time in nearly two years, rising 1%, compared with analysts' average estimate of a 0.7% fall, according IBES data from Refinitiv.
Shares of the 35-year-old company rose 3% in premarket trading. (Reporting by Uday Sampath in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)