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United States pizza firm hopes to score with National Basketball Association star Shaquille O'Neal

24 March 2019

A Papa John's restaurant is seen on July 11, 2018 in Miami, Florida. O'Neal will be paid $8.25 million over three years for the deal. Shares of Papa John's soared more than 6 percent Friday.

Papa John's sales have struggled for the past 15 months, leading to closed franchised locations and a rescue investment from activist investor Starboard Value.

Shaquille O'Neal is the new face of Papa John's.

Papa John's announced Friday that NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O'Neal will be joining Papa John's as a member of the company's board of directors and as an investor in nine Papa John's restaurants in the Atlanta, Georgia area.

He remains the biggest shareholder of the pizza company, which has about 5,000 restaurants in 45 countries.

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The proposed promotional agreement calls for the company to be allowed to use O'Neal's "name, nickname, autograph, voice, video or film portrayals, facsimile signature, photograph, likeness and image or facsimile image to market and promote ... the Company in any and all media".

National Basketball Association legend Shaquille O'Neal attends the grand opening of Shaquille's At L.A. Live at LA Live on March 09, 2019 in Los Angeles, California.

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

The last time the pizza chain was in the news it was over the hubbub whipped up by former CEO John Schnatter's use of the N-Word during a company training call.

"Everyone loves pizza and pizza loves everyone", O'Neal said.

"This is one more step in the evolution of the company, the brand and our people", said Papa John's Chief Executive Steve Ritchie in an interview with Reuters.

United States pizza firm hopes to score with National Basketball Association star Shaquille O'Neal