NEW YORK – Paula Deen’s media and merchandising empire is collapsing.
Sears, J.C. Penney and Walgreen said Friday that they’re cutting ties with Deen, adding to the growing list of companies severing their relationship following revelations that the Southern celebrity chef used racial slurs in the past.
Meanwhile, Deen’s publisher has canceled a deal with her for multiple books, including an upcoming cookbook that was the No. 1 seller on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com.
Ballantine Books said Friday it would not release “Paula Deen’s New Testament: 250 Favorite Recipes, All Lightened Up,” which was scheduled for October and was the first of a five-book deal announced early last year. Interest in it had surged as Deen, who grew up in Albany, Ga., and specializes in Southern comfort food, came under increasing attack for acknowledging she had used the N-word.
Ballantine, an imprint of Random House Inc., said it decided to cancel the book’s publication after “careful consideration.”
Sears Holdings Corp. said it will phase out all products tied to the Paula Deen brand after “careful consideration of all available information.”
“We will continue to evaluate the situation,” said the parent company of Sears and Kmart stores.
In an email statement, J.C. Penney Co. Inc. said it will stop selling Deen-branded products. Walgreen Co. said it was phasing out Paula Deen-branded products, which include tortilla chips and a selection of soups.
QVC said Friday that it has decided to “take a pause” from Deen. The home shopping network said that Deen won’t be appearing on any upcoming broadcasts, and it will phase out her product assortment on its online sales channels over the next few months.
“We all think it’s important, at this moment, for Paula to concentrate on responding to the allegations against her and on her path forward,” said Mike George, QVC’s president and CEO in a letter posted on the company’s website.
But QVC left the door open for Deen to return. “Some of you wonder whether this is a ‘forever’ decision — whether we are simply ending our association with Paula,” George said. “We don’t think that’s how relationships work. People deserve second chances.”
Deen issued her own statement that was posted on QVC’s webpage. “As you know, I have some important things to work on right now, both personally and professionally. And so we’ve agreed that it’s best for me to step back from QVC and focus on setting things right.”
The developments are the latest blows dealt to Deen since comments she made in a court deposition became public.
Earlier this week, Walmart Stores Inc., Target Corp. and Home Depot all announced that they plan to stop selling cookware and other items with Deen’s brand.