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Shaquille O'Neal joins Papa John's board, to invest in 9 Atlanta restaurants

Pizza chain Papa John's International Inc. said March 22 that it appointed four-time NBA champion Shaquille O'Neal as director, and the basketball player-turned-businessman will invest in nine Papa John's restaurants in Atlanta.

O'Neal will also serve as a brand ambassador for the pizza chain, which is trying to improve its image after its founder and former chairman John Schnatter used a racial slur during a conference call.

Schnatter was forced to step down as chairman in July 2018, and the company reached a settlement with him earlier this month.

"Papa John's is building a better culture, and I want to be a part of improving the Company from the inside out," O'Neal said.

O'Neal is founder and owner of Big Chicken in Las Vegas and Shaquille's in Los Angeles. He also owns a Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Inc. franchise in Atlanta and is a minority owner of the Sacramento Kings NBA franchise.

"In addition to his business acumen, Shaquille understands how to build lasting connections with consumers and energize employees. 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," Steve Ritchie, President and CEO of Papa John's, said.

"Shaquille has an excellent entrepreneurial background, including as a restaurant franchise owner, and is a natural creative marketer," said Papa John's board chairman Jeff Smith.