Paula Deen Re-Ramping Up Business Behind Resolution Agency’s Principal Investor

By | Wednesday February 12, 2014 @ 11:51am PST

PaulaDeenToday__130626155223-275x154Paula Deen is looking to grow her brand again less than a year after being dropped from her high-profile gig at Food Network. Paula Deen Ventures — which includes Paula Deen Foods, Paula Deen Media, Paula Deen Restaurants, Paula Deen Cookware and Paula Deen Home — is being backed by Najafi Media, the deep-pocketed content and distribution subsidiary of Najafi Cos. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because it is: Founder and CEO Jahm Najafi was the principal investor and financing partner who with Jeff Berg launched Resolution talent agency in January 2013 — the first major full-service agency start-up in almost two decades. Paula Deen Ventures will be run by retail veteran Steven Nanula, who for the last two years led the development of the Paula Deen Food Company.

Nanula told the Wall Street Journal the company is in talks with TV networks and other possible partners, but no deals have been signed. The WSJ says the investment is from $75 million-$100 million.

NajafiCoNajafi is a former Salomon Bros banker active in real estate and private equity. The Phoenix-based firm has been in the mix of several deals as it adds to its entertainment industry holdings, which include ownership stakes in the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, Direct Brands (BMG Music Service, SkyMall, Columbia House and Book Of The Month Club), and Toronto-based recorded media manufacturer Cinram. “All of us at Najafi Companies have a deep respect for the hard work, unique content and quality products which Paula has built around her brand,” Najafi said today in a release announcing the partnership with Deen. “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; and now we have a proven management team in place to build and lead the organization.”

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Year-End: Biggest TV Controversies Of 2013

By | Monday December 30, 2013 @ 2:27pm PST

TV Controversies 2013

TYear End 2013he year 2013 was so jam-packed with TV controversies that, after Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson this month left A&E looking more or less like the spot marked with chalk where the accident had occurred, exhausted Reporters Who Cover Television slumped over in a surfeited sort of coma.

Here’s a look at some of the bigger dust-ups: Read More »

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Paula Deen Continues Career Comeback With Tonight’s ‘E! True Hollywood Story’ Treatment

By | Monday October 14, 2013 @ 9:32am PDT

Paula Deen visits another of the stations of the cross on her road to TV redemption tonight — she’s the subject of an E! True Hollywood Story. E!THS says it will detail the “rags to riches … Read More »

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Paula Deen Makes First Public Appearance Since Summer Slur Scandal

By | Saturday September 14, 2013 @ 5:26pm PDT

Ex-Food Network star Paula Deen took a step toward career rehabilitation today with her first live public appearance since her June mea culpa media blitz. Despite the N-word scandal that … Read More »

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Paula Deen Lawsuit Dropped

By | Friday August 23, 2013 @ 3:01pm PDT

Celebrity chef Paula Deen took a big step toward becoming non-toxic-for-TV today, when lawyers signed a deal dropping that discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuit that wound up costing Deen her Food Network gig, among other business relationships. Both sides agreed to drop the lawsuit “without any award of costs or fees to any party,” according to a document filed in U.S. District Court in Savannah, the Associated Press reports. Former employee Lisa Jackson had sued Deen and her brother, Bubba Hiers last year, saying she suffered from sexual harassment and racially offensive talk and employment practices during her five years as a manager of a restaurant Deen and Hiers co-owned. During a deposition related to the lawsuit, Deen acknowledged having used racial slurs in the past and, when a transcript became public in June, the media frenzy led to Deen being dumped by Food Network and other business partners.

Related: Paula Deen Can’t Be Sued For Racial Discrimination, Judge Says
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Paula Deen Can’t Be Sued For Racial Discrimination, Judge Says

By | Monday August 12, 2013 @ 2:22pm PDT

A federal judge in Georgia says a former restaurant manager can’t sue celebrity chef Paula Deen for racial discrimination. But the ruling today by U.S. District Judge William T. … Read More »

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TCA: ‘African Americans’ On Race & The N-Word, George Zimmerman & Paula Deen

By | Wednesday August 7, 2013 @ 12:23pm PDT

Diane Haithman contributes to Deadline’s TCA coverage.

Included on today’s TCA panel on PBS’s new documentary The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross With Henry Louis Gates (along with Gates and journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault) was a grown-up Ruby Bridges, known for being the first black child to attend a public elementary school in the South (1960, age 6, New Orleans). She revealed that she was taught alone in one room for a full year by a teacher from Boston because many of the local teachers refused to teach black kids. “I never missed a day of school and neither did she,” Bridges said.

After the panel, Deadline asked Bridges for her comment about two stories of involving race that have recently dominated the news: The high-profile George Zimmerman case and the less highly-charged instance of Paula Deen confessing under oath to having used the N-word.

On Zimmerman: “Being a mother myself, of young black men and also a mom that’s lost a son to that kind of violence, I believe that anybody who takes a life today needs to be accountable and the justice system needs to work for all of us. I think that race played a part of it [but] I think it was a lot more complicated than that. Read More »

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Court Returns Paula Deen Deposition Video To Lawyers, Putting Public Release In Doubt

By | Friday July 12, 2013 @ 9:57am PDT

Get ready for a free-for-all over one of the summer’s most highly sought after videos: Paula Deen‘s racially insensitive comments from a May deposition — part of a suit by a … Read More »

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UPDATE: CBS Embraces Paula Deen Summer With Racial Slur Episode Of ‘Big Brother’; Julie Chen Weighs In

By | Monday July 8, 2013 @ 8:53am PDT

UPDATE: 8:53 AM: CBS put an end to those embarrassing record-low ratings Big Brother has been suffering this season (at least temporarily) by airing the racist and homophobic remarks made by contestants during the show’s webcast. About 6.3 million tuned in to see what the kerfuffle was all about on Sunday’s Very Special Big Brother episode devoted to the controversy; Big Brother was the only primetime broadcast show of the night to break a 2 rating among 18- to 49-year-olds. That boilerplate statement CBS has been using over the years, in re racist, homophobic, etc. remarks made by Big Brother competitors, has included a reminder that the network makes a distinction between the show’s broadcast and its webcast. But this being the summer of Paula Deen and the George Zimmerman trial, and Big Brother limping along with record low ratings, it seemed inevitable the network would air a Very Special episode about the comments made by some of the players. For those catching up: On this season of Big Brother, we’ve learned the high price of seeking fame in Hollywood by slinging slurs in the BB house; so far two of this season’s contestants, Aaryn Gries and GinaMarie Zimmerman have been sacked from their day jobs because of their racist remarks on the show, while Spencer Clawson’s employer, at press time, had slapped his wrist.

Not coincidentally, ‘Big Brother’ host Julie Chen also weighed in the next morning on The Talk – which she co-hosts. “Those things, in my opinion … felt mean-spirited. It felt ugly and it felt mean,” she said of the comments that originally ran on the show’s webcast. Chen confessed she was surprised to discover that a 22-year-old, college educated woman would make “anti-gay, anti-black, and anti-Asian comments.” Apparently Chen, who has hosted the U.S. version of Big Brother since its debut in 2000, hasn’t been watching “Big Brother’s” webcast all those years she’s been hosting the show.

“It took me back to the ’70s when I was growing up in Queens and I was 7-years-old getting bullied…I thought, ‘Wow, I haven’t heard comments like that [in years].’ The year is 2013. I felt ignorant — there are still people in the country who feel and act that way?”

PREVIOUSLY, WEDNESDAY PM: CBS hit pay dirt when the Paula Deen/N-word story broke just as the network was revving up the 15th season of its Big Brother reality competition series. The network has achieved a lot of support among younger viewers for this show, in which millennials who’ve CBS Logobeen carefully cast for their willingness to toss aside all dignity and every other noble quality shack up together in a made-for-TV house that’s been outfitted with loads of cameras and audio. Big Brother has a great track record of contestants making racist and homophobic remarks. And CBS has a great track record of issuing its boilerplate statement — like it did late yesterday — tsk-tsk-tsk-ing the contestants’ slurs and reminding us this show is a social experiment and the network is in no way connected to the contestants’ views. This appeals to younger viewers — Big Brother is the network’s youngest-skewing summer series and one of its youngest skewing of all its programs over the course of the calendar year. So successful is the reality competition series among younger viewers that the network said yesterday it’s moving one of BB’s three nights of broadcast to Thursday at 8, to make sure Big Brother viewers see many promos for the net’s younger-skewing sitcoms, airing in that very same hour during the “official” TV season.

Sure enough, almost immediately after its season debut, the Big Brother live feed, which runs online only, caught two competitors making racist and homophobic remarks about fellow housemates, sending the Reporters Who Cover Television, who are looking for ways to keep going their Paula Deen-story web traffic, screaming for joy. Read More »

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Paula Deen Drops Longtime Agent

By | Friday July 5, 2013 @ 9:48am PDT

It’s the latest fallout following public disclosure of the celebrity chef’s admission in a deposition that she used the N-word and the subsequent crumbling of her business and media empire. Paula Deen announced the split with Barry Weiner Thursday in an email through her spokeswoman Elana Weiss and obtained by The Associated Press. “Paula Deen has separated from her agent. She and her family thank him for the tireless effort and dedication over the many years.” Deen did not say why she parted with Weiner with whom she’d worked for more than 10 years. The email ended by saying “Paula wishes him well in all future endeavors”. Read More »

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‘The N Word’ Special Boosts CNN Ratings By 90%

By | Tuesday July 2, 2013 @ 4:28pm PDT

CNN improved its ratings fortune a whopping 90% in the news demo of adults 25-54 and nearly 60% among viewers of all ages last night when it telecast the perfect-storm special, which brilliantly tapped into viewers’ summertime appetite for all things Paula Deen AND George Zimmerman. An average of 612,000 people watched The N Word — 218,000 of them in the demo. The previous four weeks, CNN had averaged 388,000 viewers in the time slot, and 115,000 in the demo. Sure, CNN still finished fourth among cable news networks — third in the demo — with the controversial special. But, hey, up is up.

Here’s how it went:

CNN, in a ratings hole, has waded deep into the trial of Zimmernan, who’s been charged in the fatal shooting of unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin, adding a new 10 PM Anderson Cooper-hosted trial recap show — and yes, we to have heard the gag about the network changing its name to ZNN. Meanwhile, the TV ratings gift that is Paula Deen’s unsuccessful bid to manage fallout from a deposition acknowledgement she’d used the N word is the stuff Reporters Who Cover Television will be talking about for weeks to come. Clever CNN combined these two biggest ratings-getters into one special, The N Word, which, maybe most notably, included a 15-minute segment mulling, N Word Vs Cracker: Which is Worse? Read More »

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UPDATE: Paula Deen Lawsuit “Never Been About N-Word” Says Discrimination Plaintiff

By | Tuesday July 2, 2013 @ 1:35pm PDT

UPDATE TUESDAY 1:35 PM: The woman whose lawsuit shattered Paula Deen’s media mini-empire today tells CNN that her case was never about the chef’s use of racial slurs. “This lawsuit has never been about the N-word, it is to address Ms. Deen’s patterns of disrespect and degradation of people that she deems to be inferior,” said Lisa Jackson in a statement provided to the cable news network Tuesday by her attorney Matthew Billips. Deen’s use of the slur was revealed in a deposition she gave in the case. The fallout has seen her Food Network show cancelled and various endorsements and other business deals terminated. On Monday, Deen and her brother’s lawyer filed more paperwork to their motion have the racial discrimination part of the case dismissed because Jackson is white. “I may be a white woman, but I could no longer tolerate her abuse of power as a business owner, nor her condonation of Mr. Hier’s despicable behavior on a day-to-day basis. I am what I am, and I am a human being that cares about all races, and that is why I feel it is important to be the voice for those who are too afraid to use theirs.”

PREVIOUSLY MONDAY PM: It won’t bring back her canned Food Network show, lost endorsements, book deals and merchandising sales, or her reputation in many circles. But Paula Deen today pushed to have dismissed part of a racial discrimination lawsuit — the one in which she confessed to using the N-word in a deposition. The fallout once the deposition became public has quickly led to the collapse of Deen’s cooking empire. The TV chef, who admitted to using the racial slur in the past, is employing the Supreme Court’s recent Prop 8 ruling in her efforts: Today, the defendants filed paperwork (read it here) in U.S. District Court in Georgia citing SCOTUS’ ruling June 26 that essentially struck down the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s anti-same-sex marriage Prop. 8. Deen’s former restaurant employee Lisa Jackson brought the original suit against the chef; although white, Jackson has bi-racial nieces. Deen’s supplementary material to the earlier motion for sanction noted Chief Justice John Roberts’ opinion for the majority in the Prop 8 ruling: “One essential aspect…is that any person invoking the power of a federal court must demonstrate standing to do so. This requires the litigant to prove that he has suffered a concrete and particularized injury that is fairly traceable to the challenged conduct, and is likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision…In other words, for a federal court to have authority under the Constitution to settle a dispute, the party before it must seek a remedy for a personal and tangible harm.” Last week the Supreme Court ruled that Prop. 8′s legal proponents lacked legal standing based on the argument Roberts detailed in his opinion. 

Related‘Today’ Gives Paula Deen Failing Grades After Interview

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Deadline Big Media With David Lieberman, Episode 41

Listen to (and share) Episode 41 of our audio podcast Deadline Big Media, With David Lieberman. This week, Deadline’s executive editor talks with host David Bloom about those red-hot cable TV stocks amid speculation about an imminent John Malone mega-deal; what next for Paula Deen’s crumbling media and endorsement empire; continued experiments in premium VOD; and whether broadcasters really should worry about the latest expansions of would-be competitors Aereo and FilmOn.

Deadline Big Media, Episode 41 (MP3 format)
Deadline Big Media, Episode 41 (MP4a format) Read More »

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UPDATE: Publisher Drops Paula Deen After J.C. Penney, Sears, Kmart And Walgreens Join Exodus

By | Friday June 28, 2013 @ 1:40pm PDT

UPDATE, 1:40 PM: It doesn’t seem to matter that Paula Deen’s New Testament: 250 Favorite Recipes, All Lightened Up is Amazon’s best-selling book ahead of its scheduled publication in October. Random House’s Ballantine Books says today that it’s cancelling its plans for the cookbook, Publishers Weekly reports. Deen jumped to Ballantine from Simon & Schuster last year.

PREVIOUS, 11:40: Now J.C. Penney is leaving the Paula Deen business, the Dallas Morning News reports. The paper says that the chain sells Deen-branded cookware and carries a broader array of her merchandise in hundreds of its smaller stores.

PREVIOUS, 8:15 AM: Sears Holdings, which owns Sears and Kmart, says that it will “phase out” all of its Paula Deen merchandise and “will continue to evaluate the situation.” Walgreens also says that it’s phasing out Deen-branded goods which include mixes, seasonings and butter.

PREVIOUS, THURSDAY PM: QVC CEO Mike George says in a blog post that “for now” Paula Deen “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.” The site offers a Deen-branded line of cookware. The shopping channel chief adds that “People deserve second chances. And we always strive to do the right thing.” Following his note, Deen writes one of her own expressing appreciation for “the caring way that QVC has interacted with me over the past week.” She also says that she has “some important things to work on right now, both personally and professionally” and agreed that “it’s best for me to step back from QVC and focus on setting things right.” Deen says that she is “truly sorry and assure you I will work hard to earn your forgiveness.”

PREVIOUS, THURSDAY AM: Target says it will “phase out” the Paula Deen cookware and merchandise in its stores and online. Meanwhile, pharmaceutical manufacturer Novo Nordisk, which had teamed with the celebrity chef to promote Victoza — a drug for diabetics — says that it and Deen “have mutually agreed to suspend our patient education activities for now, while she takes time to focus her attention where it is needed.” The company had initially said that it would stand by Deen. Read More »

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UPDATE: ‘GMA’ Regains Ratings Top Spot Day After ‘Today’ Wins With Paula Deen

By | Friday June 28, 2013 @ 10:06am PDT

UPDATE, 10:06 AM: One day after Today‘s Paula Deen “get”, ABC’s Good Morning America was back on top, nearly 600,000 viewers ahead of Today and 31% in front in the adults 25-54 demo, which is the currency of news programming ad sales.

PREVIOUSLY, THURSDAY AM: NBC News boasted this morning that its Paula Deen interview on Today beat ABC’s genre-leading Good Morning America on Wednesday morning. It’s the first time Today has outstripped GMA since the Friday of Hurricane Sandy week, in November. According to early calculations, Today averaged 4.84 million viewers and GMA 4.67 million. To put this in perspective: One day earlier, GMA had clocked nearly 800,000 more viewers than Today, using the same early measurement system.

Related: Paula Deen On ‘Today’ Tearfully Begs Sponsors Not To Dump Her Read More »

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Police Report Supports Paula Deen Comment To Matt Lauer

By | Wednesday June 26, 2013 @ 3:06pm PDT

Paula Deen’s comments on Today this morning about her experience at the wrong end of a gun during a 1987 bank robbery dovetail with the statement made by the guy at the other end of the gun, according to the latest TV program to jump on the story today. “I was surprised when I walked in and saw the lady that was the teller at the window, because I knew her from the downtown bank where I normally bank,” the alleged robber said in his account of the incident, according to the police report obtained by CBS-distributed Inside Edition. “I thought she would recognize me because there were some holes in the stocking covering my face. I can’t remember her name, but I know who she is,” Inside Edition reported the man said, citing the police report. Deen told Matt Lauer this morning on Today that she had used “the N-word” just once, and in reference to this incident, during which she said the man’s hand was shaking, which caused her to fear he had recognized her. Deen is under the gun now because of a statement she made, during a deposition for a harassment suit that’s been filed against her, that she has used the racial slur in the past. Food Network announced it was dropping her after that deposition was leaked, and Walmart and Caesars Entertainment severed ties with the TV celebrity cook after her Today interview.

Related: ‘Today’ Gives Paula Deen Failing Grades After Interview

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‘Today’ Gives Paula Deen Failing Grades After Interview

By | Wednesday June 26, 2013 @ 8:21am PDT

Celebrities on trial in the court of public opinion might want to think twice before using Today to get out their message. Almost immediately after Matt Lauer’s interview with Paula Deen on the program this morning, the show began critiquing it — and gave Deen mostly failing grades. “Paula Deen’s TODAY apology ‘failed’ and was ‘bizarre,’ experts say”, ran the Today.com headline. “Opinions are split over how effective her 13-minute mea culpa really was,” the show’s website’s critique said. The critique included reviews by public relations experts, one of whom noted, “(Former President Richard Nixon) never apologized by saying he was guilty or wrong about Watergate; she was the same way.”

Related: Paula Deen On ‘Today’ Tearfully Begs Sponsors Not To Dump Her

“Toward the end it was kind of bizarre,” weighed in another. Insisting she’d only used the N-word once was a big strategic mistake, they all agreed. If anyone ever caught her on a cell phone making a racial slur “she’s done,” said one PR expert. The show ticked off the “other low points” in Deen’s appearance. Among them, she was accused of giving rehearsed responses and gestures, and of using “pidgin colloquialism” like “I is what I is.” Read More »

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Paula Deen On ‘Today’ Tearfully Begs Sponsors Not To Dump Her: “I Would Not Have Fired Me” And “I Am Not A Racist”

By | Wednesday June 26, 2013 @ 5:47am PDT

BREAKING… UPDATED (with video): TV’s Southern cooking queen Paula Deen confessed she was “heartbroken” when she sat down with Matt Lauer on Today this morning. This was her much delayed but much ballyhooed live interview to salvage her business empire in the wake of her admission she had used “the N-word” in her 66 years and The Food Network’s controversial decision not to renew her contract. “I’m here because I want people to know who I am,” Deen said, choking up. Lauer responded, “Millions of dollars are at stake for today’s interview. Are you here to say what you just said, or to stop the financial bleeding?” Deen replied, “I’m here because I want people to know who I am,” Deen choked up. “People I have never heard of are all of a sudden experts in who I am. And what hurts most is that their words are being given weight.”

Related: ‘Today’ Gives Paula Deen Failing Grades After Interview

I think Deen did very well on the show and cried at all the right moments. To build drama, the Today cameramen zoomed in on her anguished face throughout the segment, especially at the end when she really got going with the tears. For his part, Lauer is also trying to save his career with big ‘gets’ like Deen, and he followed a stern line of questioning sure to please those calling for Paula to be punished. But her supporters will not be happy with the way he treated her. He didn’t hug her or ooze sympathy; instead he sat back in his chair looking like judge and jury. By way of explanation, he said several times he wanted to keep the dialogue with her confined to business and not make it too personal.

“You’re the head of a brand,” Lauer noted, “Given the same circumstances, would you have fired yourself?” Deen responded, “Would I have fired me? Knowing me? No.” When asked by Lauer whether she was a racist, Deen replied simply, “No.” Then she added, “I believe that … every one of God’s creatures was created equal. I believe that everyone should be treated equal. That’s the way I was raised and that’s the way I live my life.”

Related: Paula Deen Inc At Stake On ‘Today’ Read More »

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CNN Keeps Paula Deen Story Hot For Tomorrow’s ‘Today’ Interview As Cookbook Sales Surge

By | Tuesday June 25, 2013 @ 12:48pm PDT

NBC News’ Today has the exclusive with in-the-news celebrity chef/TV star Paula Deen tomorrow morning, but CNN is working hard to keep viewers interested today, interviewing Deen’s sons this morning on its new morning show New Day. Deen’s sons, Bobby and Jamie, were asked about … Read More »

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