Papa John’s announces Shaquille O’Neal as new ambassador

O'Neal will stand for election at the Papa John's annual shareholder meeting this year.

Shaquille O'Neal announced Friday that he will be the company's first African-American board member.

Papa John's gained 4 percent to $48.85 on the New York Stock Exchange following the news.

Papa John's sales have struggled for the past 15 months, leading to closed franchised locations and a rescue investment from activist investor Starboard Value. Schnatter resigned from the company and also left his position on the board of directors as part of a settlement with Papa John's.

Pizza chain Papa John's International Inc., trying to recover from a string of high-profile public relations blunders, on Friday named former basketball star Shaquille O'Neal as its newest board member, brand ambassador and investor.

Image Shaq Becomes New Face of Papa John's Following Ex-CEO's N Word Scandal Image #2
Papa John’s announces Shaquille O’Neal as new ambassador

O'Neal is known for his affable nature and appearing in ads for everything from Comcast and Icy Hot balm to Radio Shack and Burger King during his playing days.

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".

Asked if the pizza firm could be renamed "Papa Shaq" in his name, he laughed and said there would be a new item on the menu: "Shaqaroni".

Jeff Smith, chairman of the Papa John's board of directors told CNN Business O'Neal "has an excellent entrepreneurial background, including as a restaurant franchise owner, and is a natural creative marketer". In addition, he is the founder and owner of Big Chicken, a fast casual fried chicken restaurant in Las Vegas, and Shaquille's, a fine dining restaurant in Los Angeles.

"This is a triple threat opportunity for me", O'Neal said in a release. "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". The company hopes O'Neal can fix its image and revive its sales after the company's founder and namesake, John Schnatter, made racially insensitive remarks.

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