Paula Deen is ready to come back, y'all

The celebrity chef has formed a new company and received a whopping investment. She's now looking to make some deals.

By MSN Money Partner Feb 12, 2014 5:17PM
By Lee Hawkins, The Wall Street Journal

Paula Deen is trying to reheat her career.

A recently formed new company, Paula Deen Ventures, said it has received an investment of between $75 million and $100 million from Najafi Cos., a private-equity company led by Jahm Najafi, who owns BMG Music Service and the Book-of-the-Month Club.

Phoenix-based Najafi Cos. said the cash infusion will be used to help Deen establish new deals and move away from a pure licensing model, in which she sells her likeness and expertise to others. Instead, she hopes to take more ownership and control in partnerships with retailers and other companies.

Steven Nanula, a food-industry veteran brought in to be chief executive of Paula Deen Ventures, said the company is in talks with TV networks, retail chains and other possible partners, but has yet to announce a television contract or a major deal. The company declined to name the TV networks and potential partners it has contacted.

A Food Network spokeswoman said the cable-TV channel hasn't had any talks with Deen about re-appearing on the network.

With her homey Southern drawl and her decadent fried foods, Deen became one of the best known in the crop of television celebrity chefs. But she fell from popular grace last year over her admitted use of racially controversial language. She soon lost dozens of products endorsements and her high-profile perch on the Food Network last June.

By its own description, Najafi Cos. often invests in business that are "out of popular favor." Najafi said he doesn't see investing in Deen to be an extraordinary risk. Despite the controversy, he said, her brand has strong, broad support from core fans across the U.S.Paula Deen (© Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)

"Our investment allows the Paula Deen brand to expand their relationships and the partnerships that are already in place, and support those partnerships on a go-forward basis," said Najafi, who is also a part owner of the Phoenix Suns NBA franchise.

In an interview over e-mail, Ms. Deen said the deal with Najafi Cos. came together after she and Najafi were introduced through a mutual friend.

She said she draws confidence from the "hundreds of thousands of folks who signed up on Facebook's 'We Support Paula Deen' page," adding that "hundreds of thousands of my fans sent me messages of love and support."

In the coming months, she said, she will work on expanding from that base of support. "I hope one day that everyone can have the opportunity to know who I am, as my family, friends and fans do," she said.

In addition to Ms. Deen being booted from the Food Network in the wake of a controversy over her past use of racial slurs, Smithfield Foods Inc. dropped her, while discounters Wal-Mart (WMT) and Target (TGT) stopped selling Paula Deen products. 

Ballantine Books, an imprint of Bertelsmann SE & Co.'s Random House Inc. publishing arm, cancelled the publication of "Paula Deen's New Testament: 250 Recipes, All Lightened Up."

Other high-profile personalities have rebounded after being marred by a crisis, including pro football player Michael Vick, and media personality Don Imus.

Najafi and Nanula said Deen has managed to build her social-media presence and to hold on to relationships with other major companies, including cookware distributor Meyer Foods, furniture manufacturer Universal Furniture and poultry producer Springer Mountain Chickens. Springer Mountain said sales of Deen's products have grown by 35% in the past two quarters.

Deen's in-store appearances in Dallas, Houston and Buffalo have drawn "standing room only crowds," Nanula said.

Her company adds that subscriptions to Paula Deen Magazine have risen more than 40 percent in the past year.

"The important thing to remember is that her fan base is rabid. Her Facebook fan base has more than doubled in the past year," Najafi said. "The Paula Deen brand is alive and well."

More from The Wall Street Journal

Feb 12, 2014 5:25PM
Good for you Paula ! Stuff it down their throats . Hypocritical media .
Feb 12, 2014 5:33PM
Wishing her the best of luck.  Her lawsuit was a farce and Food Network cancelled a good show.  I cancelled the magazine and support Deen 100%.
Feb 12, 2014 5:38PM


 I wish you all the luck in the world.  I find it cowardly with the so called friends who judge you before the Judge ruled the case against you was without merit.

I'm looking forward to your return to the public.

God luck.

Feb 12, 2014 5:47PM
It was a mean spirited character assassination based on very little from a long time ago.  she shouldn't have whimpered and laid down like she did. stand up, you're a good person, don't let the haters ruin your life.
Feb 12, 2014 6:19PM

Paula Dean is no racist. I worked at an inner city non-profit and hardly a week went by that I did not hear African-Americans calling each other the N word. I also read a comment that was posted by an African American woman during the Paula Dean fiasco. The woman said she only allowed white people to use the N word if she gave them permission to do so. That is absolutely ridiculous. There are still racists around

Al Sharpton, Rev. Wright. and Jesse Jackson to name a few. It is time for those of us who can live together in harmony, no matter what color our skin, to tell the race baiters to get lost.

Feb 12, 2014 5:40PM
way to go Paula, hope all is well with you
Feb 12, 2014 5:49PM
You go MIss Paula!! WELCOME BACK!!!! HANG Food Net Work and the retards who screwed you over!!!  NOw it's your turn girl!! GO PAULA GO!!!!!
Feb 12, 2014 5:50PM
Way to go Paula! All the best. I am a fan for life. When the enemy closes a window, God opens a door.
Feb 12, 2014 6:25PM
I have not watched the food channel since they discontinued her program. This whole mess was ridiculous! I hope Paula Deen comes back with a vengeance. God bless her and everything she does. I wish I could work for her, it would be an honor.
Feb 12, 2014 6:36PM
She will be welcomed in my home. 
Welcome back Paula. 
Feb 12, 2014 5:28PM
Welcome back Paula!  I bought a set of your steak knives and they are awesome!
Feb 12, 2014 5:35PM
Great for her, now if Coke-Cola and Budweiser gets rid of the racist black performers I may bye their products again. 
Feb 12, 2014 5:49PM
Welcome back Paula!  Never let anyone tell you to go away because of something you said in private or what you said in public.  We know you are NOT a racist!
Feb 12, 2014 6:16PM
The public has missed you Paula.  I am SO READY for your return to my television. Thank you for all you have done and continue doing.
Feb 12, 2014 6:42PM

Come on honey, bring me some butter and add a little cinnamon.

Feb 12, 2014 5:34PM
come on back paula, you're forgiven.
Please!! Has anyone listened to so called "rap music" and "rap artists?" They regularly use the dreaded "N" word and are among the most racist people on earth. They're nothing but a bunch of animals who keep their race down, then they blame everyone else. It's OK for them to scream "1st Amendment rights" when they want to protest or say what they want, but someone says you're a "N" and they are the racist? How about my freedom of speech? Doesn't state I can only say sweet, unoffensive things-says I can say what I want & believe. Hell, it even says I can burn the symbol of this great Nation-the Flag, but I can't say the dreaded "N" word?? Give me a break!!! It is what it is & they are what they are, end of story. I can't wait for the coming Civil War, which once again will be over them, this time though they'll get a good a** kicking!
Feb 12, 2014 5:36PM

What she said was insensitive "back in the day".  Acceptable for those from the south--does not make it right.  So , lets forgive her and learn from all  this and move on.  She has "done her time".  Lets all move on....

Feb 12, 2014 5:31PM
I wish her well...I did prefer watching her before she went "Hollywood" though...
Feb 12, 2014 8:25PM
I for one hope she out-sells all the hypocrites who looked down their noses at her.  Show me someone who says they never had a racist  thought, and I'll show you a liar.
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