Around a year ago, NBA retiree and business mogul Shaquille “Shaq” O’Neal (pictured) was brought aboard the ownership and strategic management team at Papa John’s Pizza.
John Schnatter, the pizza chain’s founder, got the company in hot water after proof of him using racist and culturally incendiary language came to light. The company then took action by paying $50 million dollars to remove Schnatter’s image and likeness from all the company’s marketing and sales material.
This included stopping Schnatter’s appearances in television commercials and etching his pictures on pizza boxes.
To save face, the board of directors at Papa John’s Pizza voted to include Shaq on the senior management and investment team. Shaq came in as a successful businessman and restauranteur in his own right. He previously owned over two-dozen Five Guys restaurants before be became a part of the Papa John’s board.
As part of the deal, Shaq was also allowed to own and operate nine of Papa John’s pizza franchises. Racial diversity was a really big problem at Papa John’s prior to Shaq joining the company’s board of directors. Bringing on a well-established black man (the first black person on the board) and media darling seemed like the right thing for the embattled company to do at the time.
However, a year later, a proxy investor at the company wants Shaq fired from his position on the board of directors.
According to a number of financial news sources, an investment advisory firm called Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) has asked Papa John’s controlling shareholders to remove Shaq, according to its recent SEC filings. The corporate governance firm believes the NBA legend does not have the ability to be a good strategic business partner due to the fact he has many other business obligations.
ISS also said in its SEC filing request to Papa John’s controlling shareholders that Shaq failed to attend at least 75 percent of the company’s board meetings last year. The proxy investor also claimed that all other board members attended at least 75 percent of 2019’s board meetings.
A final decision about whether to fire or re-commit Shaq will be made at Papa John’s annual board meeting on April 23.