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Shaquille O’Neal Becomes Papa John’s First African American Board Member

Company shares rise nearly 6 percent after NBA legend joins pizza chain’s board

Shaquille O’Neal is expanding his business portfolio by joining the Papa John’s team, the company announced on Friday.

The Basketball Hall of Famer and TNT analyst signed an $8.25 million three-year endorsement deal with the scandal-plagued pizza chain, according to Reuters.

O’Neal also joined Papa John’s board of directors and is the first African American to do so. Last year, founder John Schnatter was accused of using a racial slur during a role-playing call between Papa John’s executives and marketing agency Laundry Service.

The move had an immediate impact on Wall Street, with the company’s shares rising nearly 6 percent in early morning trading, Reuters reported.

“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,” O’Neal said in a statement.

Earlier this month, Schnattner agreed to step down from the company’s board of directors and drop two outstanding lawsuits against the company he started in 1984. Schnattner will resign from the board if the independent director is named by the end of April when Papa John’s annual stockholder meeting is scheduled.

Schnatter, who still owns about 30 percent of the company, has been locked in a bitter legal battle with Papa John’s since he stepped down as chief executive in 2017 after months of turmoil following his criticism of the NFL over the player protests, blaming them for low pizza sales.

Shaq will be an investor in nine Papa John’s restaurants in Atlanta. He currently owns a Krispy Kreme Doughnuts franchise in Atlanta and previously owned 27 Five Guys Burgers and Fries franchises.

He also recently opened his self-named restaurant Shaquille’s at L.A. Live in Los Angeles,  across the street from where he used to play for the Lakers at Staples Center.