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
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.
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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."
Deen also noted in her book: "Barry is
affectionately known in my family as Barry
Cuda. Perfect name for an agent."
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Deen's business deals began falling apart
after she was questioned under oath in May
as part of a civil lawsuit filed last year by
Lisa Jackson, a former manager of Uncle
Bubba's Seafood and Oyster House, which
Deen co-owns with her brother, Bubba Hiers.
Jackson says she was sexually harassed and
worked in an environment rife with racial
slurs and innuendo.
Ultimately it was Deen's own words that
proved damaging. Asked in her deposition if
she had ever used the N-word, she replied:
"Yes, of course." That she also insisted "it's
been a very long time" seemed to matter
little to the companies paying to use her
name and image with their products. Neither
were they swayed by Deen's apologies in
online videos and in person with the Today
show's Matt Lauer.
Forbes magazine last year ranked Deen as
the fourth-highest-earning celebrity chef last
year, figuring she had hauled in $17 million.
Her company Paula Deen Enterprises
generates total annual revenue of nearly
$100 million, according to Burt Flickinger III,
president of retail consultancy Strategic
Deen cast no blame in her statement
announcing her split with Weiner. It ended by
saying, "Paula wishes him well in all future