Domino's founder gets calling to head company again 2 years after stepping aside, Monaghan reclaims control

December 10, 1991|By Doron P. Levin | Doron P. Levin,New York Times News Service

DETROIT -- Thomas Monaghan has returned to the pizza business.

Divine providence played the major role in Mr. Monaghan's decision last week to return to the helm of Domino's Pizza Inc., a spokesman for the privately owned company said yesterday.

"God will help him find the way," said Mike Jenkins, Domino's public relations director. "He believes he's being told that he must continue building, that he must continue in the pizza business."

And a tougher business it is, with rising competition and, for Domino's, scant profits.

Mr. Monaghan abruptly took command again as president Friday. He left the current president the option of becoming a franchisee, and he reshuffled three other top managers.

Mr. Monaghan started thinking about the move Thursday, Mr. Jenkins said.

"Once he decided that's what he wanted to do, he made the management changes to complement his style," he said.

A Roman Catholic who grew up in an orphanage and became fabulously wealthy from the franchise pizza delivery business he founded in 1960, Mr. Monaghan, 54, suddenly gave up active management of Domino's two years ago.

He was putting the company on the auction block, he said, so he could devote more time to charitable causes.

The $1.2 billion price tag, however, failed to attract any serious buyers.

"The recession changed his mind for him," Mr. Jenkins explained. "No one wanted to buy it, except on the cheap."

Mr. Monaghan's change of heart with respect to pizza apparently occurred as part of a larger spiritual reawakening. A one-time connoisseur of

vintage automobiles and classic architecture, he has started fasting on bread and water each Wednesday and Friday and is putting many of his earthly possessions up for sale.

He has sold three houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, Mr. Jenkins said. Thirty cars, including a Bugatti bought for $13 million, will be sold soon.

And construction on Mr. Monaghan's new $5 million house has been halted, Mr. Jenkins said, but it may be completed in some form "so it's not a complete waste."

In an interview three weeks ago in the Detroit News, Mr. Monaghan said that he might sell his Detroit Tigers baseball team, too, if he found the team to be a source of excessive pride.

As the owner of 99 percent of Domino's stock, Mr. Monaghan has the right to install the managers of his choosing.

Domino's has 5,200 franchise stores in the United States and 466 overseas. Last year, franchisees took in revenue of $2.65 billion, according to Pizza Today magazine.

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