Paula Deen is Back, Y’all!

butterOne of my favorite longform internet-type writers, Taffy Brodesser-Akner, has a profile of the new-and-improved Paula Deen business empire, built on ashes and martyrdom and Southern charm:

a new company had been announced— Paula Deen Ventures—which had been bankrolled to the tune of a reported $75 to $100 million by an investor named Jahm Najafi. His website says he “seeks to make strategic investments in undervalued assets,” but really, homeboy loves a fire sale: he was the last known owner of Book of the Month Club and BMG Music Service — you remember, 12 tapes for a penny — and in 2011 considered buying Borders, which had dwindled to 405 all-but-dead stores. He specializes in businesses that still have some juice in them; he doesn’t care how much because he buys them so cheap and a profit is a profit. (You can only imagine how quickly calls made to the Najafi headquarters were not returned for this story. Paula Deen’s publicists also denied my many interview requests on the boat and after; they did not respond to our many fact-checking queries.)

And there is still profit to be squeezed from the Paula Deen brand. Deen’s products — through collaborations with Meyer Corporation, among others—had seen a reported 35 percent sales increase in the first two quarters of this year; subscriptions to her magazine reportedly grew by 40 percent. (For perspective, in those two quarters, paid subscriptions for magazines in general faltered 1.8 percent and single-copy newsstand sales fell a significant 11.9 percent from a year before.)

There are many fascinating facts embedded in this essay. For one, it can cost $75,000 per episode to make a cooking show. How is that ever profitable or worth it? For another, Glenn Beck sells discounted NRA subscriptions. Mostly though it’s an interesting story about a self-made woman who publicly self-destructed and is now trying to self-make again, in part by drawing on the sympathy of folks like her with a soft spot for butter. An American tale, indeed.

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