Starboard earlier this year unveiled an investment of up to $250 million in Papa John's.
Founder John Schnatter, the company's biggest shareholder whose image had once been deeply ingrained in the pizza chain's marketing, agreed earlier this month to resign from the board and dismiss a lawsuit related to his departure a year ago as chairman.
Papa John's shares jumped as much as much as 6.3 per cent in New York Friday.
It's his first time as a board member for a public company.
O'Neal said Schnatter's racial remark controversy and others that surrounded the one-time face of the company "probably did" affect Papa John's sales, "but now we have new leadership".
The company first reported a slowdown, but not a decline, in October 2017, which its founder and then-CEO John Schnatter blamed on the National Football League leadership's handling of player protests. With such an extensive entrepreneurial background, it makes ideal sense that Papa John would invite Shaq to be the first African American join their board of directors.
It's a move likely to draw praise.
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He'll also join the pizza franchise's board of directors and invest in nine Atlanta restaurants.
O'Neal invested in nine Papa John's locations in the Atlanta, Georgia area, the company said in a press release. For almost 20 wonderful years in the NBA, basketball and family were the biggest parts of my life.
Papa John's could use O'Neal's popularity, as well as his business acumen.
Papa John's has a new pitchman: Shaquille O'Neal. The company is still developing its plan for how to use O'Neal in a marketing push it hopes will help boost sales and bring in younger customers, Chief Executive Officer Steve Ritchie said in an interview. He's also stepping in as a brand ambassador for the company as part of a marketing agreement. And O'Neal has his own restaurant in Los Angeles' L.A. Live called Shaquille's.
"This is a triple-threat opportunity for me", O'Neal said.
Jeff Smith, chairman of the Papa John's board of directors told CNN Business O'Neal "has an excellent entrepreneurial background, including as a restaurant franchise owner, and is a natural creative marketer".