A former NBA superstar will be the new face for Papa John’s and a member of its Board

Shaquille O’Neal arrives at the Grand Opening of Shaquille’s at LA Live on Saturday, March 9, 2019, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP)
Shaquille O’Neal arrives at the Grand Opening of Shaquille’s at LA Live on Saturday, March 9, 2019, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP) Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP

Former NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal is the new face for Papa John’s, the pizza chain announced Friday.

O’Neal will join the Louisville-based Papa John’s as a member of its Board of Directors and plans on investing in nine of its locations in the Atlanta area. He’s also entered a marketing agreement with the company.

O’Neal’s addition to the board follows turmoil surrounding founder and former chairman John Schnatter using a racial slur during a conference call in July 2018. His image was removed from Papa John’s advertising and pizza boxes, and the pizza chain announced earlier this month that Schnatter would resign from the board following a settlement.

A four-time NBA champion and current analyst for “Inside the NBA” on TNT, O’Neal also owns a Krispy Kreme Doughnuts franchise in Atlanta and previously owned 27 Five Guys Burgers and Fries franchises, according to Papa John’s.

“Shaquille has an excellent entrepreneurial background, including as a restaurant franchise owner, and is a natural creative marketer,” stated Jeff Smith, Chairman of the Papa John’s Board of Directors. “Shaquille has demonstrated great success through understanding the customer value proposition with product and brand differentiation. The Board and I are excited to work with Shaquille and look forward to the terrific possibilities to strengthen our position together.”

According to Fortune, O’Neal will earn around $8.25 million over three years for the endorsement agreement.

As Papa John’s continues to rebrand itself, six new directors have been added to the Board of Directors in 2019.

The newest one, O’Neal, said he is excited “to be able to help Papa John’s raise their game to new heights.”

“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.”

University of Louisville renamed its football stadium, previously named Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, in the wake of the scandal involving Schnatter. His name was also removed from buildings at the University of Kentucky, where he had pledged $8 million to its Gatton School of Business.

In a radio interview last July, which followed his resignation from the University of Louisville Board of Trustees, Schnatter admitted to using the racial slur.

“I said it, and it’s wrong and it hurt people,” he said on WHAS 840. “That’s the bottom line here is it’s all about the people, and I hurt people. Whether it was intentional or not intentional — which, of course, it was unintentional — but I still hurt them and I have to own that, and I have to apologize for that, period.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Basketball legend Shaquille O'Neal speaks during the 12th annual Excellence in Leadership Series at the University of the Cumberlands.

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