Celebrity chef Paula Deen loses more deals, but book sales soar

Thu Jun 27, 2013 8:04pm EDT
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By Piya Sinha-Roy

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - U.S. celebrity chef Paula Deen saw more lucrative deals evaporate on Thursday despite her renewed apologies for using a racial slur, as retailer Target Corp and drug company Novo Nordisk A/S joined the list of sponsors distancing themselves from the doyenne of Southern cooking.

But in a sign that Deen could make a comeback, her upcoming cookbook "Paula Deen's New Testament," which features "lightened up" recipes, shot to the top of the Amazon books best-sellers list this week on pre-orders for the October 15 release. And her "Southern Cooking Bible" is No. 2 on the list.

Experts say not all may be lost for Deen despite the exodus of sponsors and they point to the comeback of another domestic maven, Martha Stewart, who was able to rebuild her career and image after serving jail time for insider trading.

Deen, 66, has been in damage control mode after a deposition surfaced last week in which she admitted to using the "N-word." She released online apology videos and made a tearful appearance on NBC's "Today" on Wednesday.

For Robert Passikoff, president and founder of Brand Keys Inc, a consumer and brand loyalty consulting firm, Deen's apology was "too little, too late."

"She came across as very defensive and when you are talking about contrition, the two words don't really go together," Passikoff said.

"While she had reasonable brand values that worked for her sponsors, she's not the only one available and these days sponsors don't need to take a chance on folks that self destruct," he added.

Forbes estimated Deen's earnings at $17 million in 2011, placing her fourth on its list of highest-earning chefs last year as her privately held company, Paula Deen Enterprises, expanded.   Continued...

Matt Lauer interviews Paula Deen (R) on NBC News' "Today" show in this handout released to Reuters on June 26, 2013 by NBC NewsWire. U.S. celebrity chef Paula Deen, who had admitted in a lawsuit that she had used a racial slur, said on Wednesday that she is not a racist and would never intentionally hurt anyone. Mandatory Credit: REUTERS/Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire/Handout via Reuters