Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Disgraced Deen dumps agent

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SAVANNAH, Ga. -- Paula Deen announced this week 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 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.

"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.

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.

Meanwhile, authorities on Friday arrested a New York man charged with trying to extort money from Deen in exchange for not going to the media with "true and damning statements" he said she made.

FBI agents and local sheriff's deputies arrested Thomas George Paculis, 62, of Newfield, N.Y., Friday morning. A criminal complaint filed Wednesday in federal court in Savannah, Ga., charges him with extortion.

The complaint says Paculis was threatening to go to the media with statements made by Deen unless the former Food Network star gave him $250,000.

The complaint does not specify what was in the statements Paculis claimed were made by Deen.

 

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 6, 2013 B7

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