Papa John’s announced Friday that its newest board member is a familiar name: Shaquille O’Neal.
O’Neal appeared on Good Morning America Friday morning to announce that he would be the board’s first African American director, as well as an investor in nine Papa John’s restaurants in Atlanta. He will also serve as an ambassador for the embattled pizza brand.
Shares of the company rose 2 percent in premarket trading. The stock, which has a market value of $1.48 billion, is down 17.2 percent over the last year.
Papa John’s has seen its North American sales tank after a series of scandals involving its founder John Schnatter, including his use of a racial slur on a conference call. Last year, it spent $5.8 million on reimaging costs, which included removing Schnatter’s image from its marketing materials and pizza boxes.
The company recently reached a settlement agreement with Schnatter. As part of the settlement, he would work with the company to find a mutually acceptable independent director not affiliated with himself or Starboard Value, the activist hedge fund that recently invested in Papa John’s.
In addition to his background as a retired NBA player and analyst, O’Neal has been investing in restaurants since his days in the league. He owns a Krispy Kreme Doughnuts franchise in Atlanta, a Las Vegas fried chicken restaurant called Big Chicken and a Los Angeles fine dining restaurant called Shaquille’s. He previously owned 27 Five Guys franchises.
Papa John’s most recent additions to its board include Michael Dubin, CEO of Dollar Shave Club; Jocelyn Mangan, CEO of Him For Her and a former OpenTable executive; and Anthony Sanfilippo, former chief executive of Pinnacle Entertainment. O’Neal’s addition brings the number of directors to 12.
The pizza chain has been trying to stage a comeback, focusing its marketing messaging on its use of “better ingredients” and releasing six new pizza flavors.