Papa John’s scores Shaq to help revive its image

Shaquille O'Neal arrives at the Grand Opening of Shaquille's at LA Live on Saturday

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

Papa John's International Inc.

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 previous year brought out reports of workplace sexual harassment and nepotism at various Papa John's locations.

The joint venture between the company and O'Neal calls for the former National Basketball Association center to provide $840,000 to acquire a 30 percent stake in the nine Atlanta-area restaurants that are now company-owned.

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

Papa John's competitor Pizza Hut, owned by Yum Brands Inc, replaced it as sponsor for the National Football League previous year.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission Friday, Papa John's said that with O'Neal's appointment, it increased the size of its board by one to 12.

Shaquille O'Neal will appear in Papa John's commercials as the company attempts to fix its image following the dismissal of founder John Schnatter.

O'Neal is no stranger to the restaurant industry: He now owns a Krispy Kreme Doughnuts franchise in Atlanta and once owned 27 Five Guys franchises. He's also entered a marketing agreement with the company. 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.

"Shaquille has an excellent entrepreneurial background, including as a restaurant franchise owner, and is a natural creative marketer".

"This is a triple threat opportunity for me", O'Neal said in a release. Schnatter resigned from the company and also left his position on the board of directors as part of a settlement with Papa John's.

The pizza chain's sales slumped in recent quarters after Schnatter admitted to using a racial slur during a conference call with marketing executives last summer.

"Shaq" will be an ambassador for the brand, Papa John's CEO Steve Ritchie said on the CNBC business channel.

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