A few years ago, Pete Evans was one of Australia’s most bankable foodies, helping reel in hundreds of thousands of viewers on reality juggernaut My Kitchen Rules.
But today his reputation is in tatters after a series of spectacular scandals not only derailed his career, but also cost him a fortune in cancelled TV appearances and future advertising deals.
The celebrity chef has been raising eyebrows with his controversial health views for years, but in 2020 he went a step further, emerging as a coronavirus conspiracy theorist.
But many believe the final straw came this week when he shared – and later deleted – a cartoon on social media which featured the Black Sun neo-Nazi symbol.
He publicly apologised, claiming he had no idea of the symbol’s historical significance, but had earlier commented that he was “waiting for someone to see that” when a follower pointed out he had shared a Nazi symbol.
The backlash caused Evans to be dumped by longtime publisher Pan Macmillan Australia and a string of bookstores and retailers, supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths and from an upcoming season ofNetwork 10’s I’m a Celebrity. His future career prospects and earning potential are now looking increasingly bleak.
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HOW MUCH HAS PETE LOST?
While not speaking specifically about Evans, Crowd Media group founder and managing director Judy Sahay, who runs a group of three digital, media and influencer marketing agencies, said as a “ballpark figure”, Australian celebrities could rake in anywhere between $80,000 to $250,000 for single TV appearances.
Book deals could earn anywhere from $60,000 to $150,000 depending on their influence, market segments and reach while advertising campaigns could be worth $250,000 to $400,000+ depending on the brand and the value the celebrity will offer to their clientele.
But Ms Sahay said the real moneymaker was brand endorsements, which could represent a $100,000 to $1 million payday.
“This I believe has the highest value because they are long-term projects and the celebrity involvement is a lot more than just an appearance. This may also come in the form of equity split as well,” she said.
‘NO WAY BACK’
Veteran media analyst and director of Pearman Media, Steve Allen, told news.com.au Evans’ career was all but finished, and that all those lucrative deals would now dry up.
“He is nearly impossible to rehabilitate … there’s really no way back because he is a loose cannon, and media organisations these days just can’t afford to have loose cannons so he has really written off his future,” he said.
“Who would employ him, even as a chef? It has cost him millions.”
Mr Allen said Evans’ mysterious 2012 exit from the Hugos “empire” he founded with brother Dave Evans would have cost a small fortune in itself, although he went on to become a household name as a MKR judge.
“MKR was a giant success and I don’t know what these people would get (paid), but it would be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars per season,” he explained.
“And also what you get from that is massive exposure, which gets you into other commercial deals. All that is gone – he is untouchable.”
Mr Allen said Evans was “done” when it came to advertising campaigns and brand sponsorships as he had fallen foul of regulators, as well as public opinion.
“He’s done, he has lost all credibility,” he said.
“Would I’m a Celebrity and SAS and some of those style of reality programs think it was a good idea (to feature Evans) because he is so controversial? Yes, they probably would, but we won’t see him using his skill set in areas where he can really make money out of again because he has burnt all his bridges.
“I don’t think he will be able to find any more success because he has done such a hatchet job on his reputation.”
Mr Allen said if Evans did strike out on his own to start a new business, it would likely initially draw in some curious punters but would not be sustainable in the long-term.
‘A STEP TOO FAR’
Advertising guru and Gruen regular Dee Madigan previously told The Guardian Evans stood to lose “hundreds of thousands of dollars” if Coles alone stopped selling his products, but agreed the loss of future brand partnerships would be the real financial blow.
“Books don’t tend to make a lot of money although cookbooks may be different, and I know there were rumours of I’m a Celebrity paying $200,000, but everyone (on the show) is paid different amounts,” she told news.com.au.
“But brand sponsorships are massive, and nobody would want to touch him with a bargepole now.
“The COVID craziness is one thing – you could put it down to just a nutjob conspiracy theory – but it’s the Nazi thing that was a step too far.”
Ms Madigan said Evans’ track record of questionable beliefs meant his public image couldn’t recover.
“He’s not a 20-year-old moronic sports star – there’s a point at which you reach an age and you are who you are,” she said.
However, Ms Madigan said there was a small fringe audience of like-minded individuals who might share Evans’ views, and he might find a way to monetise his notoriety through platforms like OnlyFans or right-wing social networking service Parler.
COULD HE MAKE A COMEBACK?
Public relations expert Nicole Reaney said Evans had evolved from an “alluring product partner” to “handballing sporadic grenades that disrupt brands” in recent years, making him a liability for many businesses.
“His contentious views present a risk to brands, who would be on the receiving end of public commentary. These brands would be receiving a huge amount of pressure from the community to sever ties,” she said.
“He’s a serial agitator and unfortunately leaves brands uncertain of what they’re buying into.”
But she said while his “outbursts” would make it difficult to regain the trust of some brands, others might come knocking.
“On the other hand, brands that are controversial in nature may steer towards a personality like Pete,” she said.
And Mediaweek editor James Manning said we may well see an Evans comeback down the track.
“Endorsing products would be unlikely but I wouldn’t write him off for TV – audiences are pretty forgiving and if people thought he was the right fit for a project, anything can happen, although it’s unlikely in the short term,” he said.
“He’s got a reputation as being someone who is a bit out there maybe, and I think some display that he had moderated his views would be all that would be needed, although definitely brands will be giving him a wide berth at the moment for sure.”