Papa John's is going full court press on its turnaround. Delivery, check. New management, check. And now, star power, check.
— Danni Santana
Papa John’s has announced NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal as the newest member of its board, as the struggling pizza chain continues to throw everything but the kitchen sink at its public image problem to rebound sales.
Over the last month, Papa John’s has expanded delivery with DoorDash to 1,400 locations, altered its digital marketing strategy to highlight new menu changes, and accepted a $200 million investment from Starboard Value LP after efforts to sell itself did not pan out.
Along with the new funding came the appointment of Starboard’s CEO Jeffrey Smith as chairman. The activist hedge fund is largely credited with the sales turnaround at Olive Garden beginning in 2014. With Smith at the helm, Papa John’s has now appointed six new board members since the beginning of the year, including former OpenTable executive Jocelyn Mangan.
“Shaquille has an excellent entrepreneurial background, including as a restaurant franchise owner, and is a natural creative marketer,” said Smith, in a statement. “Shaquille has demonstrated great success through understanding the customer value proposition with product and brand differentiation.”
O’Neal will be featured in commercials as an ambassador for the Papa John’s brand, according to the agreement. He will also serve as an active investor in nine Papa John’s franchises in Atlanta where he is employed by WarnerMedia Entertainment. He currently owns a Krispy Kreme Doughnuts franchise in Atlanta, along with Big Chicken, a fast casual fried chicken concept in Las Vegas, and a fine dining restaurant in Los Angeles, Shaquille’s.
“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. “I am excited to be able to help Papa John’s raise its game to new heights.”
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