The Savannah, Ga.-based celebrity cook announced Wednesday that she’s launched an umbrella company that will oversee her restaurants, cookbooks, product endorsements and other remaining slices of her media empire. The new company, called Paula Deen Ventures, said private-equity firm Najafi Companies is investing $75 million to $100 million to help Deen make a comeback.
Jahm Najafi, CEO of the Najafi Companies, said his firm has great respect for Deen’s past success and is confident its investment will pay off.
Others brands to benefit from Najafi’s investments include the Phoenix Suns NBA team, the Book of the Month Club, Columbia House and the direct-marketing business aimed at travelers, SkyMall.
Deen’s image took a crushing blow last summer when a transcript of a legal deposition Deen gave to attorneys in a discrimination lawsuit filed by a former employee was made public. Deen was asked under oath if she had ever used the N-word. “Yes, of course,” Deen replied, though she added: “It’s been a very long time.”
Deen’s fortunes took a dive. The Food Network dropped Deen, as did pork producer Smithfield Foods, book publisher Ballantine and several other companies that paid her to endorse their products.