LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Papa John’s International Inc. and NBA Hall of Fame player, Shaquille O’Neal formed a partnership in which the former NBA star will join the company as a board member and investor.

O’Neal will be an investor in nine Papa John’s restaurants in the Atlanta, Georgia, area. He also will be a brand ambassador for Papa John’s as part of a marketing agreement with the company.

“I have truly enjoyed the high-quality Papa John’s product for years and am excited to be able to help Papa John’s raise their game to new heights,” O’Neal said. “This is a triple threat opportunity for me. 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.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues on the board and using my experience in business and community to build on the progress being made at Papa John’s,” he added. “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 is no stranger to the foodservice category. He currently owns a Krispy Kreme Doughnuts franchise in Atlanta and previously owned 27 Five Guys Burgers and Fries franchises. He founded Big Chicken, a fast-casual fried chicken restaurant in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Shaquille’s, a fine dining restaurant in Los Angeles, California.

O’Neal also is a minority owner of the Sacramento Kings National Basketball Association franchise.

“In addition to his business acumen, Shaquille understands how to build lasting connections with consumers and energize employees,” Steve Ritchie, president and CEO of Papa John’s, said. “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.”

In addition to O’Neal, Papa John’s added six new directors — including four new independent directors — to the company’s board: Jeff Smith, CEO of Starboard Value who also is Papa John’s new independent Chairman, Michael Dubin, CEO and founder of Dollar Shave Club, Jocelyn Mangan, CEO and founder of Him For Her and a former executive at Snagajob and OpenTable, and Anthony Sanfilippo, former chairman and CEO of Pinnacle Entertainment, as well as Steve Ritchie.