Shaquille O'Neal Joins Board Of Embattled Papa John's Pizza

A Papa John's down in Miami

As O'Neal explained in an open letter, he was able to undertsand "what truly makes the Papa John's family so special" when he met Ritchie and made a "Shaq-eroni" pizza at a charity event earlier this year. "Papa John's is no different, and it struck a chord with me that the company is putting in the work to do better within its walls and in the communities it serves across the country".

"This is a triple-threat opportunity for me", O'Neal said.

The company, beset by several controversies over the last several months is adding former National Basketball Association center Shaquille O'Neal to its board, making him the company's first African-American director as it tries to move past its troubles.

"We are working through diversity not only on the board, but also the leadership team, franchise base and supplier base", Ritchie said.

O'Neal is hardly the first former athlete to take a board membership at a restaurant chain.

Papa John's hopes a 7-foot center can help it rebound.

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Social media had some amusing reactions to the news.

It'll be interesting to see if Papa John's sales increase with the move.

In March, the company said Schnatter was leaving the board as part of a settlement resolving the bitter dispute and would find a mutually acceptable independent director who would not be affiliated with Schnatter or hedge fund investor Starboard, which owns a almost 10 percent stake in the restaurant chain. Along with joining the board of directors he will also invest in nine Papa John's franchise spots in Atlanta and become an ambassador. "I am excited to join the board and to help lead from the top". Shares of the company rose more than 5 percent in morning trading Friday.

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 proposed promotional agreement calls for the company to be allowed to use O'Neal's "name, nickname, autograph, voice, video or film portrayals, facsimile signature, photograph, likeness and image or facsimile image to market and promote ... the Company in any and all media".

O'Neal is no stranger to the restaurant industry: He now owns a Krispy Kreme Doughnuts franchise in Atlanta and once owned 27 Five Guys franchises. This includes board chairman and independent director Jeff Smith, the chief executive officer of Starboard Value LP.

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