Papa John’s Hopes to Bounce Back With Shaq Attack

NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal will lead a full-court press for Papa John’s as the beleaguered chain continues to rebuild in the wake of problems involving its founder and ex-chairman/CEO John Schnatter.

According to Reuters, O’Neal has signed on to an $8.25 million, three-year endorsement deal with Papa John’s and will also serve on its board. The company’s shares rose almost 6 percent after the announcement this morning, Reuters reported.

O’Neal will also invest in nine Papa John’s restaurants in Atlanta, where he previously owned 27 Five Guys Burgers and Fries franchises.

“This is a triple-threat opportunity for me,” O’Neal said in a statement. “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.”

Papa John’s has experienced negative publicity and a sharp sales decline in the months since news broke last year that Schnatter had used a racial slur in a media training conference call. He was forced out as the chain’s chairman, and the company also removed his image from its marketing materials and pizza boxes. Prior to that, Schnatter had garnered bad publicity with a number of public comments. As his company was experiencing lower sales, for example, he blamed the problem on the NFL’s declining TV ratings and African-American players who knelt during the national anthem to protest police brutality. Papa John’s later lost its NFL sponsorship deal (now held by rival Pizza Hut).