SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Paula Deen announced Thursday that she has cut business ties with the agent who helped make her a Food Network star and launch a media and merchandising empire that has largely crumbled in the wake of her admission that she used racial slurs in the past.
Deen had worked with New York agent Barry Weiner for more than a decade. She has said he was instrumental in getting her show “Paula’s Home Cooking” on the Food Network in 2002. She gave no reason for her parting with Weiner in a prepared statement.
“Paula Deen has separated from her agent,” Deen’s spokeswoman, Elana Weiss, said in an email Thursday. “She and her family thank him for the tireless effort and dedication over the many years.”
Deen’s breakup with one of her key partners comes after a turbulent two weeks that have left the celebrity chef’s network of business deals in shambles. It all started within days of the public disclosure of a legal deposition in which Deen admitted under oath to having used the N-word.
The Food Network passed on renewing Deen’s contract and yanked her shows off the air. Smithfield Foods, the pork producer that paid Deen as a celebrity endorser, dropped her soon after. Retailers including Wal-Mart and Target said they’ll no longer sell Deen’s products and publisher Ballantine scuttled plans for her upcoming cookbook even though it was the No. 1 seller on Amazon. Even the diabetes drug company that made the much-criticized deal to hire Deen as a paid spokeswoman dumped her.
Weiner worked to turn Deen into a comfort-food queen since she was little more than a Savannah restaurant owner and self-publisher of cookbooks who earned raves for her fried chicken.
In her book “Paula Deen: It Ain’t All About the Cookin,’” Deen recalled meeting Weiner through TV producer Gordon Elliott, who was convinced they could turn her into a star.
“Barry and Gordon felt like there was a show somewhere inside this Paula character that could be very successful,” Deen wrote. “They probably courted Food Network for two years trying to push me at them.”