Paula Deen's business shaken by controversy

MGN ONLINE
Thursday, June 27, 2013 - 6:21pm

Paula Deen's southern cooking empire continued to unravel Thursday as major brands jumped ship, prompting the celebrity chef to seek out professional crisis-management assistance.

Home improvement giant Home Depot and retailer Target have decided to end their deals with Deen while drugmaker Novo Nordisk has suspended its relationship with her Thursday. Late in the day, home shopping channel QVC said it has "decided to take a pause" from selling Deen's products.

"Paula 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. We all think it's important, at this moment, for Paula to concentrate on responding to the allegations against her and on her path forward," said QVC president Mike George in a letter.

George's letter went on to say that the company believes in second chances and this may not be a "forever decision" for QVC.

Home Depot, which until now had been selling Paula Deen-branded kitchen and cookware, said it was no longer selling her products online. Target said it would also discontinue her branded products. "We have made a decision to phase out the Paula Deen merchandise in our stores as well as on Target.com. Once the merchandise is sold out, we will not be replenishing inventory," said spokeswoman Molly Snyder.

Paula Deen, who is famous for her fondness of butter and other unhealthy foods, has been mired in controversy before. Last year after months of rumors, she admitted to having been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and that she'd be the spokeswoman for Novo Nordisk's "Diabetes in a New Light" educational campaign. Novo Nordisk manufactures Victoza -- an injectable, non-insulin drug used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes.

"Novo Nordisk and Paula 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 said.

The news comes just one day after Wal-Mart and Caesars Entertainment Corporation announced they would end their relationships with Deen amid the growing controversy.

In an attempt to stop the hemorrhaging, Paula Deen has hired Smith & Company, the crisis-management firm run by Judy Smith -- the inspiration for the hit ABC show Scandal -- according to a source familiar with the arrangement. Smith has served as a consultant for a host of high profile clients including Monica Lewinski, Michael Vick, Wesley Snipes and Jill Kelley, the mistress of former CIA director General David Petraeus.

Deen's latest troubles began almost two weeks ago when a deposition in a discrimination lawsuit was released in which she admitted using the n-word in the past. Dean has insisted she does not tolerate prejudice, but her apologies have failed to suppress the controversy.

Wal-Mart, which sold Paula Deen branded baked goods, cookware, dishware and kitchen appliances, and Caesars, which operated Paula Deen-themed restaurants at four of its casinos, cut Deen loose on Wednesday.

Pork producer Smithfield Foods, with a line of Deen-branded hams, dropped her as a spokeswoman on Monday. Last week, the Food Network said it wouldn't renew Deen's contract when it expires at the end of the month.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story said that Novo Nordisk had ended its relationship with Paula Deen. The company says it has suspended its relationship with the chef.

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