Paula Deen Poised for Cooking Comeback With $75-100M Grubstake

Image: Paula Deen Poised for Cooking Comeback With $75-100M Grubstake

Thursday, 13 Feb 2014 09:48 AM

By Alexandra Ward

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Buoyed by a multimillion-dollar investment, Paula Deen appears poised for a comeback after the celebrity chef took a public beating over the summer when it was revealed that she  used the N-word once before in the past.

Najafi Cos., a private-equity company led by Jahm Najafi, who owns BMG Music Service and the Book-of-the-Month Club, has reportedly invested between $75 and $100 million into the newly formed Paula Deen Ventures, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The deal 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," WSJ reported.

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"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," Najafi, whose corporation often invests in companies that are "out of popular favor," said in an interview.

Deen's public reputation is still recovering from the beating it took over the summer, when she admitted in a legal deposition to having used the N-word once before in the past. She was labeled a racist and her multimillion-dollar empire virtually crumbled beneath her — the Food Network booted her, stores didn’t want to carry her line of cookware or her books anymore, and her partners dropped her as a spokeswoman.

"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."

In an email interview with WSJ, Deen said she draws support from the "hundreds of thousands of folks who signed up on Facebook's 'We Support Paula Deen' page" and the "hundreds of thousands of my fans [who] sent me messages of love."

"I hope one day that everyone can have the opportunity to know who I am, as my family, friends, and fans do," she said.

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