Paula Deen’s $17 Million Disaster: What’s the Cost of the N-Word?

by | June 28, 2013 at 9:25 AM | Celebrities, TV News

Paula Deen (Photo: Getty Images)

By Tim Kenneally

What’s the going rate for the use of the N-word these days? Just ask Paula Deen — if she can manage to pull her foot out of her mouth long enough, she’ll tell you that it’s plenty.

Embattled celebrity chef Deen has watched her many-faceted empire crumble like a poorly constructed pie (not enough butter?) this week, as one business partner after another cuts ties with her, following her admission that she had used the N-word.

Also read: Paula Deen and QVC ‘Take a Pause’ From Each Other While This Whole N-Word Thing Gets Sorted Out

But just how much of a bite has the blossoming scandal taken out of Deen’s elaborate buffet of endorsements, product lines, personal appearance fees and other money-making endeavors?

According to Forbes, Deen raked in $17 million in 2012. But judging from the steady stream of defectors from the Deen camp, the 2013 tally won’t be nearly so hefty.

The Food Network, which severed ties with Deen last week, after she feebly attempted to save face with numerous apology videos published online, brought in an estimated $2.5 million for Deen annually — a fee that she won’t be collecting after her current contract expires in June.

While that’s the biggest single loss to Deen’s coffers — so far — it’s hardly the only one. Smithfield Foods, which carried a line of Paula Deen-branded hams, cut Deen loose this week. Deen’s deal with Smithfield was worth an estimated $900,000 in 2010, and likely didn’t go anywhere but up in the ensuing years, as Deen’s empire spread like butter across an artery-clogging pile of biscuits.

Then there’s Deen’s partnership with drug manufacturer Novo Nordisk, which makes the diabetes drug Victoza, which Deen promotes. Novo Nordisk hasn’t officially separated from Deen — rather, it mutually agreed with Deen to “suspend our patient education activities for now.” However, Deen’s partnership with the company — which was struck amid no small amount of controversy last year — is reportedly a three-year deal worth $6 million. So, assuming that things go south for Deen on that front as well, take another $2 million chunk out of Deen’s pie.

That’s $5.5 million — nearly a third of the $17 million that Deen reportedly took in last year.

Also read: Paula Deen: ‘I Beg For Your Forgiveness’ For Using N-Word

And that’s not including the impact that Walmart and Target’s decisions to part ways with Deen will have. While those numbers are more difficult to quantify, losing a retail giant as a venue through which to flog her wares will most certainly have a financial impact on Deen.

Being generous and taking Deen at her word during Wednesday’s “Today” interview that she only used the N-word once (a claim contradicted by Deen’s previous tally), that’s a pretty big contribution to the swear jar.