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Paula Deen cooks up $85M comeback deal



SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) - Paula Deen has found a key ingredient to bringing some sizzle back to her career - a cash infusion worth at least $75 million from a private investment firm.

The Savannah-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.

Deen's fortunes took a dive last year after comments she made under oath during proceedings in a lawsuit, namely that she had used racial slurs in the past, became public. 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.

In a statement, Deen praised the partnership with Phoenix-based Najafi and the decision to name Steven Nanula, who has already worked with Deen for the past two years, to serve as CEO of Paula Deen Ventures.

"I know this is the right decision to lead my team, as we continue to share quality products with my fans - whose love and support have built my brands," Deen said.

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 pro basketball team, the Book of the Month Club and SkyMall, the direct marketing business aimed at travelers.

"We know that the enterprise will be successful and valuable, as Paula and her team continue to bring quality products and experiences to her loyal fan base," Najafi said in a statement.

A publicist for Deen told The Associated Press she was not available for an interview.

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."

The lawsuit was settled out of court in August. Terms were never disclosed.

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pl1843 February 13 2014 at 12:58 AM

I like chicken

Flag Reply +1 rate up
horvathmich February 12 2014 at 9:28 PM

if a woman held me up at gun point and could have very well taken my life, and I call her an ugly old *****, does that mean that I am against all old people and prostitutes? Know I am simply using words to take down the person who took me down because I am frustrated and want to use at least what I can get back at the person

Flag Reply +4 rate up
Bob Rulapaugh February 12 2014 at 8:13 PM

Congratulations Paula Deen! We've missed you and anxiously awaiting your return. Bravo!

Flag Reply +6 rate up
butterflysoul03 February 12 2014 at 8:14 PM

Sooo happy to hear this. Paula I have followed your career since the very beginning. You are the most genuine person I have had theprivilege to meet. I wish you the best and much success.

Flag Reply +8 rate up
beth.slatnick February 12 2014 at 8:15 PM

I love Paula and I am very happy for her. She is a darling. Best of luck to you.

Flag Reply +9 rate up
dollibug February 12 2014 at 8:16 PM

Can't keep a good woman DOWN*******you go. AMERICA is standing behind you all the way.

Flag Reply +8 rate up
FayJ1 February 12 2014 at 8:16 PM

Good for you Paula ...... that was an ugly media driven hard knock you took..... Welcome back!

Flag Reply +10 rate up
scoppy399 February 12 2014 at 9:21 PM

GLADE YOUR BACK SURE DID MISS YOU AND ALL YOUR GOOD COOKING GOD BLESS YOU. AND GOOD LUCK TO YOU

Flag Reply +7 rate up
1 reply
wlh1923 scoppy399 February 12 2014 at 9:22 PM

Caps lock. Hit it. Stop screaming.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
jomarie45 February 12 2014 at 9:21 PM

welcome back Paula~~~~ we have missed you ~~~~!!!!!!!

Flag Reply +6 rate up
xpphil12 February 13 2014 at 6:12 AM

Back in Paula Deen's day most of the people using the infamous racial slur were southern Democrats .During the cold war the Soviets were constantly trying to stir up more trouble between blacks and whites and exploit the division of income between the races.Now days this is the job of the Democrat party.

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