Shaq Criticized for Skipping Too Many Papa John’s Board Meetings

Basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal skipped too many board meetings at Papa John’s International Inc. in his first term as a director and shouldn’t be re-elected, a major investor advisory firm said.

O’Neal, the four-time National Basketball Association champion, attended less than 75% of the pizza company’s board and committee meetings over the last year, investment adviser Institutional Shareholder Services said in a Thursday report. Because of that record, ISS is asking investors vote against his re-election at the scheduled April 23 annual meeting — the only such recommendation among members of that board.

Papa John’s announced a year ago that the NBA hall-of fame-center, sportscaster and restaurateur, was joining the board as part of a broader plan to rejuvenate the pizza chain’s image. The company said O’Neal would invest in nine restaurants in the Atlanta area and entered into a marketing agreement with the company and agreed to pitch the brand. O’Neal was slated to get about $8.25 million over three years for the endorsement agreement, Papa John’s said at the time.

“Everyone loves pizza, and pizza loves everyone,” O’Neal said in a broadcast interview after the announcement.

O’Neal was unable to attend several board meetings due to business and broadcasting commitments made prior to his appointment to the board, which couldn’t be rescheduled, the company said in a proxy filing ahead of the annual meeting. The scheduling conflicts are not expected to recur in 2020, Papa John’s said in the filing.

A representative of O’Neal didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Papa John’s is fighting its way back from a scandal involving former Chief Executive Officer and founder John Schnatter, which hurt sales and badly damaged the company’s reputation.

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