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Paula Deen Raised at Least $75 Million For a Comeback

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[Photo: Eric Sauseda / Eater]

Are you ready to see a whole lot of Paula Deen again? The beleaguered ex-Food Network star has raised between $75 million and $100 million for her new company Paula Deen Ventures, the Wall Street Journal reports. The investment came from the Phoenix-based private equity company Najafi Cos., owned by Jahm Najafi of BMG Music Service and the Book-of-the-Month Club. A representative from Paula Deen Ventures says the company is currently in talks with undisclosed "TV networks, retail chains and other possible partners," though Food Network says they are not in talks with Deen. Fun.

Najafi tells the WSJ that the plan is to move Deen away from "a pure licensing model, in which she sells her likeness and expertise to others." That's probably a decent strategy considering the millions of dollars she lost in endorsement deals after a public relations nightmare last Summer. A deposition in a now-dismissed lawsuit was leaked in which Deen admitted to using racial slurs. Najafi also says that he doesn't see the investment as much of a risk: Subscriptions to Paula Deen Magazine have reportedly "risen more than 40% in the past year" while sales of Deen's Springer Mountain Chickens have reportedly "grown by 35% in the past two quarters."

Attempting to recover from one of the biggest food world scandals of 2013, Deen's strategy will apparently be to "take more ownership and control in partnerships with retailers and other companies." Part of the plan also includes continuing to beef up her already impressive social media following and fan base. Deen's comeback has been long in the works. Deen has been dipping her toes in the water of public appearances for the past few months, greeting cheering crowds in Houston and Buffalo.

· Paula Deen Is Ready to Come Back, Y'all [WSJ]
· All Paula Deen Coverage on Eater [-E-]

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