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

Shaquille O’Neal will join the board of Papa John’s, making him the first African-American director at a company still suffering from its founder’s various scandals.

O’Neal, an NBA Hall of Famer and actor who has been putting money into restaurants for years, will also invest in nine Papa John’s pizza locations around his hometown of Atlanta, according to a company press release.

That’s big news for a company that has seen its North American sales plummet after various scandals involving founder John Schnatter, whose racist conference call last year brought out reports of workplace sexual harassment and nepotism at various Papa John’s locations. Schnatter resigned as chairman after his words during the conference call became public.

“In addition to his business acumen, Shaquille understands how to build lasting connections with consumers and energize employees,” Steve Ritchie, president and CEO of Papa John’s, said in a press release. “I look forward to working with him as a board member and brand partner to advance the many initiatives we are pursuing across the organization to create even greater success for Papa John’s and our stakeholders.”

Ever since the Schnatter incident, Papa John’s has been picking up the pieces.

Last year, the company dropped $5.8 million on changing its image, a process that included removing Schnatter’s likeness from pizza boxes and other marketing, according to CNBC. Its stock, which has a value of $1.48 billion, is down more than 17 percent over last year, the site reports.

O’Neal owns or previously owned a Krispy Kreme franchise, 27 Five Guys locations, a fried chicken joint in Las Vegas called Big Chicken and a Los Angeles restaurant with his own name, Shaquille’s.

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