Shaquille O'Neal joins Papa John's board, invests in 9 restaurants

Mar 24, 2019, 02:11
Shaquille O'Neal joins Papa John's board, invests in 9 restaurants

But the company hopes Shaq can help Papa John's beyond hawking pizza.

Papa John's International Inc. said it will pay O'Neal more than $8 million in cash and company stock for the three-year endorsement deal.

The joint venture between the company and O'Neal calls for the former National Basketball Association center to provide $840,000 to acquire a 30 percent stake in the nine Atlanta-area restaurants that are now company-owned. Papa John's sales have declined for five straight quarters. That occurred just before the NFL and pizza chain ended their sponsorship agreement when founder John Schnatter blamed protesting NFL players as a reason for the league's then-declining TV ratings.

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Founder John Schnatter, the company's biggest shareholder whose image had once been deeply ingrained in the pizza chain's marketing, agreed earlier this month to resign from the board and dismiss a lawsuit related to his departure a year ago as chairman.

Papa John's shares jumped as much as much as 6.3 per cent in New York Friday.

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O'Neal is among the several new directors added to the 12-member Papa John's board this year, including Chairman Jeff Smith, the chief executive officer of Starboard Value LP. He owns a Krispy Kreme Doughnuts franchise in Atlanta, a Big Chicken fast casual fried chicken joint in Las Vegas, and Shaquille's restaurant in Los Angeles.

Papa John's CEO Steve Ritchie said in the release: "Shaquille understands how to build lasting connections with consumers and energize employees". The founder of Papa John's pizza, John Schnatter, apologized Wednesday for using the N-word on a conference call in May.

Papa John's could use O'Neal's popularity, as well as his business acumen.

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O'Neal said, "Papa John's is building a better culture, and I want to be part of improving the company from the inside out".