Paula Deen’s New Investor Has “Deep Respect” for Former Food Network Star

The CEO of the Phoenix-based private equity firm is putting his money where his mouth is too.

  • Share
  • Read Later

Like TIME on Facebook for more breaking news and current events from around the globe!

NBC, Peter Kramer / AP

celebrity chef Paula Deen appears on NBC News' "Today" show.

Paula Deen’s television comeback will be financed with a hefty investment  of $75 million to $100 million from Phoenix-based private equity firm Najafi Cos.

In statement released Wednesday, the firm’s CEO Jaham Najafi said he had “a deep respect for the hard work, unique content and quality products which Paula has built around her brand,” CNN Money reports. According to the Wall Street Journal, which broke the news of Deen’s comeback late Tuesday, Najafi is no stranger to investing in businesses that are “out of popular favor.”

The southern food doyenne went off the air last summer after taking heat for admitting under oath during a racial discrimination lawsuit (which was ultimately thrown out of court) that she had used a racial slur in reference to a black man in the past. Deen’s sponsors fled, and The Food Network, which hosted her television show, let her contract expire.

The cash infusion will allow Deen to move away from a business model in which she licenses her likeness and brand to others. Instead, she’ll take more of an ownership role in partnerships with retailers. The CEO of Paula Deen Ventures told the Journal  that Deen’s company is in talks with TV networks and others, though a Food Network representative said the channel had not had not spoken with Deen about returning to the network.