Papa John’s on Friday announced NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal has joined its board of directors and invested in several restaurants, days after the embattled pizza chain settled a longstanding legal dispute with its founder, John Schnatter.
O’Neal invested in nine Papa John’s locations in the Atlanta, Georgia area, the company said in a press release. He will also become a brand ambassador for Papa John’s and appear in its marketing campaigns.
“I have truly enjoyed the high-quality Papa John’s product for years and am excited to be able to help Papa John’s raise their game to new heights,” said Mr. O’Neal. “This is a triple threat opportunity for me. I am excited to join the Board and to help lead from the top, while also investing in nine stores in my home town of Atlanta and being an ambassador for the brand. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Board and using my experience in business and community to build on the progress being made at Papa John’s. Papa John’s is building a better culture, and I want to be a part of improving the company from the inside out.”
After earning more than $286 million in salary alone during his 19-year career, O’Neal became an investor and an NBA analyst on TNT’s “Inside the NBA.” O’Neal owns a Krispy Kreme Doughnuts franchise in Atlanta, has opened multiple restaurants and is also an investor in the Alliance of American Football, the springtime professional football league.
Papa John’s shares rose more than 4 percent in midday trading Friday.
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“In addition to his business acumen, Shaquille understands how to build lasting connections with consumers and energize employees,” Papa John’s CEO Steve Ritchie said in a statement. “I look forward to working with him as a board member and brand partner to advance the many initiatives we are pursuing across the organization to create even greater success for Papa John’s and our stakeholders.”
The pizza chain’s sales slumped in recent quarters after Schnatter admitted to using a racial slur during a conference call with marketing executives last summer. Papa John’s has invested millions to overhaul its marketing efforts and improve internal practices since Schnatter’s resignation as chairman.
Schnatter agreed earlier this month to drop two lawsuits related to his exit from the company and to resign his seat on the board of directors. He remains the company’s largest shareholder.