Paul Deen Parts Ways with Long-Time Agent as Empire Crumbles

food network celebrity cook paula deen fires agent
Nick Ut/ AP

SAVANNAH, Ga. -- 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 cook'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 (SFD), the pork producer that paid Deen as a celebrity endorser, dropped her soon after. Retailers including Walmart (WMT) and Target (TGT) 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 (AMZN). Even the diabetes drug company, Novo Nordisk (NVO), 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."

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 Resource Group.

Deen cast no blame in her statement announcing her split with Weiner. It ended by saying, "Paula wishes him well in all future endeavors."

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What happened to free speech? What she said was wrong but she is being punished extremely harsh. What she said was probably said in private. She will survive as a person. Her empire may crumble putting a great deal of people out of work in this recovering economy, all because someone wants to sue her for money. Should the one that brought this situation to light be punished for causing the lose of jobs with her?

July 07 2013 at 5:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Bottom line-the world does not need Paula Deen, as she is discovering. We will all get up, go to work, eat, sleep, etc. just fine w/o her as a celebrity.

July 07 2013 at 8:06 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to pcassidyliny's comment

Let us not forget the world does not need you either dear and can get along just fine without you darling.

July 07 2013 at 9:56 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Would it have been alright if she woukd have said colored boys?

July 06 2013 at 1:34 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

The Libs are full of it.....Another Dem in 16 and thats the end of America...

July 05 2013 at 3:43 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Do not worry Paula i am still backing you. What you did was wrong but it was years ago Dam we elected people that took drugs in the past and we forgive. Colleges hire x terrorist that blew up buildings. But for some reason when it comes to paula they cant forgive a racial slur she said years ago Paula if you are guilty so are millions of others for using the N world

July 05 2013 at 2:43 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

This is just tragic. Making a huge mountain out of a mole hill. I'm not from the south, but I do have relatives from there - it's still a part of their daily vernacular. I also have relatives from missouri and south jersey - same thing even in these enlightend times. but that's not when they grew up. They learned it in the days of segregated restrooms and the like.
I don't think what she did was wrong, considering the time and place. What's really wrong is all these spineless companies dropping her endorsements. That is truly CHICKEN SPIT

July 05 2013 at 12:30 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

1st mistake remains being an obummer supporter
2nd was apologizing for an incident that happened what ? 20 years ago ?
bank robbery in progress.. she was a teller.....and she what ?

remember only tooooooooo well eddie murphy screaming abut BEING the NNNNN with a trigga............seems to be a similar script.
and all these beligerant BLAAAAAAAAAAAACK men YAPPIN ABOUT KILLIN CRACKUUHS.kill them crackuuh babies
voter intimidation AGAINST WHITE VOTERS


so stupid paula bows down and kisses the politically korrect arses
screwed anyway.

she should have told them all to go pound sand
changed the topic to her newest food creation.

or said like madame klittoo--n """",that was a long time ago-what does it matter"""" ---

and no.i'm not into paul_a deen,southern style

equal protection under the law anyone ?

July 05 2013 at 10:03 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to setanta54s_back's comment

WHO'S makin all the sound and music about this ANYWAY ?

the libs.

not a sound from anyone else or da black caucus either.
even they know this is a crock of SPIT.

July 05 2013 at 10:06 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply