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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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hibbardharderoo7 February 13 2014 at 5:35 AM

They treated you unfairly Paula, yes, it is wrong for you to have uesed that language, but it has nuthingt to do with food! We miss you! 325.374.7425 San Angelo, Texas! You go girl!!!

Flag Reply +3 rate up
pl1843 February 13 2014 at 12:58 AM

I like chicken

Flag Reply +1 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
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
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
blivethopper February 12 2014 at 8:13 PM

She should do her own webcast. Her fans will find her, and screw the fair weather friends who were her sponsors and left her twisting in the wind.

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imnoleangel February 12 2014 at 9:07 PM

perhaps that is why you cannot spell, science girl......lol its Arianna Huffington. Go back to school.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
1 reply
hman570 imnoleangel February 12 2014 at 9:18 PM

Another ass hole heard from.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
Marcia February 12 2014 at 9:21 PM


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komedicrj February 12 2014 at 8:12 PM

I guess the one accusing her has NEVER EVER said HONKIE? LOL Racists are not all caucaision

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1 reply
MaryAnn komedicrj February 12 2014 at 8:50 PM

The woman that filed the lawsuit was white, not black. That is one of the reasons that she lost the lawsuit. She had no standing with the court.

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James Elliott February 12 2014 at 8:11 PM

I didn't watch her shows but my wife did. I don't know but my wife may have bought some of her products so id won't make a difference to me. I hope she makes it. The law suit was nothing but a mney thing where someone wanted something for nothing. Want to lawsuit me I said the N-word years ago. I was sitting talking to a man back in 1963 and he sais the n-word. Would you want his name so you can send the lawsuite papers to him. He was older than I was then so he may be dead now but you can send the papers to his kid. Would tell you what the black man said but I would get hate mail.

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1 reply
Lisa James Elliott February 12 2014 at 8:25 PM

Yep, the wealthy whites who are in power (illuminati) today benefited from their white, racist ancestors. You, however, only get made to live in a double standard when it comes to racism. Bummer.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
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