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Auntie Anne’s signs franchise with Shaq

MILWAUKEE NBA star Shaquille O’Neal has partnered with quick-service franchisee V&J Foods in a deal with Auntie Anne’s to open and run units of the soft-pretzel chain.

Milwaukee-based V&J and Miami-based O’Neal Franchise Group formed VJ & O’Neal Enterprises to open six Auntie Anne’s in the Detroit area by year-end. The group also will acquire eight existing shops in the Buffalo, N.Y. area, according to a report in the Milwaukee Business Journal.

V&J, which is led by Valerie Daniels-Carter, currently runs 32 Burger King units in the Milwaukee and Detroit metropolitan areas and 67 Pizza Hut shops in upstate New York. The O’Neal Group owns a portfolio of commercial and residential property valued at more than $50 million, according to the report.

O’Neal, a perennial NBA all-star who currently plays for the Miami Heat, is not expected to participate in advertising or promotions for his restaurants, said Michael McCoy, director of franchise sales for Auntie Anne’s.

Gap, Pa.-based Auntie Anne’s operates or franchises some 750 pretzel shops in the United States and about 200 internationally, primarily in shopping malls and airports. Systemwide sales totaled $293 million last year.

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