A private equity firm has decided to bet between $75 million and $100 million on a Paula Deen comeback.
The Wall Street Journal reported this week that Najafi Cos. would invest the money in a new company called Paula Deen Ventures. According to the Journal, the venture will focus on Deen taking “more ownership and control in partnerships with retailers and other companies.” The chief executive of Paula Deen Ventures, Steven Nanula, told the newspaper that talks are underway with TV networks, retail chains, and other potential partners.
A one-time star of Southern cooking, Deen ran into controversy last year after her history of using racial slurs was revealed to the public. In the wake of the scandal, Deen saw her business relationships crumble. She was dropped from the Food Network, while Wal-Mart and Target stopped selling her products in stores.
Jahm Najafi, the businessman who leads Najafi Cos., told the Journal that he believes the “Paula Deen brand is alive and well.”
“The important thing to remember is that her fan base is rabid. Her Facebook fan base has more than doubled in the past year,” Najafi said.