Paula Deen’s $17-million-dollar food empire continues to crumble as a growing number of sponsors sever ties with the celebrity chef. Video apologies and a tearful Today Show interview only made matters worse with multiple media outlets like USA Today, ABC News, and the New York Daily News reporting on June 29 and June 28 that another four of Paula’s business partners jumped ship.
The controversy surrounding Paula Deen’s N-word scandal has driven almost all of her corporate sponsors away.
Sears, Kmart, Walgreens and J.C. Penney are the latest retailers to end their business relationships with Paula Deen. In addition, Ballantine Books just called off a lucrative five-book deal. That makes a total of 11 business partners who have now distanced themselves from the controversial cook.
Paula’s Empire Collapses as the List of Lost Sponsors Continues to Grow
Paula Deen is the head of a multi-million-dollar food empire comprised of products ranging from cookware and food products to eyeglasses, cookbooks and TV shows.
Paula’s problems began when she admitted in a deposition that she’d used racial slurs in the past and tolerated bigoted behavior in her restaurants.
Ranked fourth on Forbes list of highest-earning chefs last year, Paula Deen’s food empire earned an estimated $17 million in 2012. Paula’s privately-held company is now in serious jeopardy as she faces the loss of millions of dollars in promotional deals.
The rapidly growing list of sponsors now includes 11 companies who have severed ties. Below is the complete list of the business partners who have parted company with controversial TV chef, Paula Deen.
- J. C. Penney
J.C. Penney is one of the latest companies to sever ties with celebrity chef Paula Deen in the wake of her racial slur scandal. The retailer released a statement confirming their decision to discontinue selling Paula Deen branded merchandise, and stating their intention to remove all Paula Deen merchandise from their website over the weekend.
- Sears – Kmart
Sears is another company which recently took steps to distance itself from Paula Deen. A statement issued by Sears Holdings, which owns Sears and Kmart stores said, “After careful consideration of all available information, we have made the decision to phase out all products tied to the [Paula Deen] brand.” Sears and Kmart carry Paula Deen’s cookware and dishware lines.
The latest setback for the disgraced chef is the cancellation of a five-book deal with Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House. The same day Sears and J.C. Penney cut ties with Paula, Ballantine Books announced that it would not be publishing “Paula Deen’s New Testament: 250 Favorite Recipes, All Lightened Up” despite the fact that it ranked #1 for pre-ordered books on Amazon.com. As of Friday, June 28, Amazon.com stopped accepting pre-orders for the book which was scheduled to be released in October of this year, but no copies had been printed yet. Unless another publisher steps up to the plate, the much-anticipated book and the four others Paula Deen was contracted to write will never see the light of day.
- Wal-Mart / Walgreens
The Wal-Mart chain which sells Paula Deen’s eyeglasses and cookware is another newcomer to the list of major retailers dumping the celebrity chef. A Walmart spokesperson stated, “We are ending our relationship with Paula Deen Enterprises and we will not place new orders beyond those already committed. We will work with suppliers to address existing inventories and agreements.” The company is also phasing out its Paula Deen food products which include tortilla chips and soups.
Minnesota-based Target Corp recently announced that they too will be discontinuing their Paula Deen business, including her cookware and cookbooks, stating “We have made a decision to phase out the Paula Deen merchandise in our stores as well as on Target.com. Once the merchandise is sold out, we will not be replenishing inventory.”
- Novo Nordisk
Diabetes drug maker Novo Nordisk says it is suspending all patient education activities with Paula Deen for now. Paula Deen, who has type 2 diabetes, signed on as a spokesperson for Novo Nordisk’s diabetes drug Victoza in early 2012. Paula helped promote patient education via an initiative called “Diabetes in a New Light.” A company spokesperson told Forbes magazine they would partnering with Paula Deen again once she has regained the trust of her audience.
- The Food Network
The Food Network was the first company to fire Paula Deen because of her involvement in the racial scandal, with a statement saying that they would not be renewing Paula Deen’s contract when it expires at the end of the month. The Food Network is credited with making Paula Deen a star with her “Paula’s Home Cooking” show in 2002. Paula was reportedly making an estimated $20,000 per episode.
QVC, the home shopping network, has also terminated its business relationship with Paula Deen. A representative for the shopping network released a statement saying, “We have considered what is best for our customers, for Paula, and for QVC. For now, we have decided to take a pause. Paula won’t be appearing on any upcoming broadcasts and we will phase out her product assortment on our online sales channels over the next few months.”
- Caesars Entertainment Corp
Caesars Entertainment Corp say they decided it was in their company’s “best interest” to eliminate all four Paula Deen-themed restaurants franchises in their casinos. (Harrah’s Tunica near Memphis, Harrah’s Joliet near Chicago, Harrah’s Cherokee in North Carolina, and a buffet at Horseshoe Southern Indiana) The restaurants will be stripped of Paula Deen’s name, rebranded, and reopened in a couple of months.
Smithfield was the second company to announce that it was terminating their partnership with Paula Deen. Smithfield, which specializes in hams and other pork products, had been partnering with Paula since September 2006. In reference to Paula’s N-word scandal, the company stated that they condemn “the use of offensive and discriminatory language and behavior of any kind.”
- Home Depot
Paula Deen has also been dropped by Home Depot which carries her line of cookware and kitchen products. A Home Depot spokesperson confirmed that the company would stop carrying Paula Deen-branded items.
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*** © copyright 2013 Ruth Houston / All Rights Reserved.
Ruth Houston is a journalist, author, columnist, speaker and member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) specializing in celebrity and lifestyle topics. She writes a Celebrity Infidelity column, and is frequently called on by the media to comment on celebrity infidelity scandals, high profile infidelity court cases, and popular infidelity/ relationship issues in the news. Ruth also does cruise ship lectures on celebrity scandals, as well as other lifestyle topics. To interview infidelity expert Ruth Houston, or have her speak at your next event, call 718 592-6029 or e-mail InfidelityExpert@gmail.com