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He Co-Founded Pizza Hut, Then Switched to Papa John's

Frank Carney, who had one of the largest Papa John’s franchises, dead at 82
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 3, 2020 12:01 AM CST
Updated Dec 3, 2020 12:36 AM CST

(Newser) – Frank Carney, who with his brother started the Pizza Hut empire in Wichita, died Wednesday from pneumonia, the AP reports. He was 82. Carney had recently recovered from COVID-19, but had Alzheimer's disease for more than a decade and died at an assisted living facility in Wichita, his wife and brother told the Wichita Eagle. Frank Carney was a 19-year-old student at Wichita State University when he and his 26-year-old brother, Dan, borrowed $600 from their mother to start a pizza business in 1958 near their family’s Carney’s Market. PepsiCo bought Pizza Hut for $300 million in 1977. When the company moved the pizza chain's headquarters from Wichita to Dallas—a decision Frank Carney thought was a mistake—it solidified his decision to become a Papa John's Pizza franchisee in the 1990s and compete against his former business associates in the Wichita market.

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He had one of the largest Papa John’s franchises and kept working until Alzheimer’s struck. "When you are starting a business that’s going to pay your way through college, you don’t even think about what the economy is doing,” Carney once told a 1992 entrepreneurship conference at Wichita State regarding Pizza Hut. “We didn’t care about who was in the White House or what the unemployment rate was," he said. "The entrepreneur, all he thinks about is: Is there a market for the product? Can I sell it?” Over the years, Carney got involved in various business ventures, including other food companies, real estate, oil and gas, automotive, rental and recreational businesses, but of the about 20 companies, only five made him money: "He probably lost most of what he had made in Pizza Hut," Dan Carney said. "He was not depressed. He was just aggressive to build something different."

(Read more obituary stories.)

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