Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs accuses drinks giant Diageo

Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs accuses drinks giant Diageo 

Rapper and producer says company undermined joint venture by marketing key products Ciroc and DeLeon as ‘Black brands’

American rapper, producer and businessman Sean Combs has sued spirits giant Diageo, accusing the British multinational of racism and deliberately undermining a joint spirits brand.

In a court filing Wednesday, Combs’ lawyers say Diageo and its executives have “put their feet on the necks of Mr. Combs’ brands,” stifling the production, distribution and sale of Combs Wines and Spirits brands, including Ciroc vodka and high-Fin DeLeon brand tequila.


Combs’ lawyers are seeking an injunction “to provide the equal treatment” they say Diageo “contractually promised.” The filing states that Combs Wines and Spirits plans to seek “billions of dollars in damages due to Diageo’s negligence and wrongdoing” in a separate lawsuit.

In public, Diageo, a publicly traded, multi-billion dollar spirits company, proclaims itself a leader in diversity and inclusion,” begins the New York supreme court filing.

But that claim “is a lie,” Coombs’ lawyers say, arguing that the company “has been unwilling to treat its black partners equally, even when explicitly required by contract.”

Combs, who has gone by the names Puff Daddy, P Diddy and Diddy, has had a long and successful venture with Diageo promoting its brand of Ciroc vodka. In 2014, it announced a 50/50 partnership with Diageo to buy DeLeon, an “ultra-premium” tequila. The brand’s most expensive offerings can cost close to $1,000.

In the court filing, Combs’ lawyers accuse Diageo of not endorsing the brands and of marginalizing their appeal by marketing them as “black brands.”

“Instead of equal treatment, Diageo has treated Mr. Combs and his brands worse than others because he is black. Diageo has pigeonholed Ciroc and DeLeon, apparently deciding that they are ‘black brands’ that should only target ‘urban’ consumers,” the documents state.

The documents claim that Diageo’s president of booking and new business, Stephen Rust, directly acknowledged the company’s racist undertones in 2019, telling Combs that “some within Diageo’s leadership resented him for making too much money.”


“He also admitted that Mr. Combs’ race was part of the reason Diageo limited the neighborhoods where Combs’ brands were distributed. If Mr. Combs were ‘Martha Stewart,’ said Mr. Rust, things would be different.

Diageo bought two other tequila brands after the DeLeon deal: Don Julio and Casamigos, the spirits company co-founded by actor George Clooney. Combs’ lawsuit claims the company “has effectively abandoned DeLeon.” Instead, he has reportedly focused on Casamigos, Aviation Gin (owned by actor Ryan Reynolds), and Ketel One vodka.

The carelessness led to poor design decisions that hurt brands and scarcity, claims the filler.

In a statement, a Diageo spokesperson said: “This is a trade dispute, and we are saddened that Mr Combs has chosen to reframe this matter as something other than that.

“Our strong commitment to diversity within our company and the communities we serve is something we take very seriously. We categorically deny the allegations that have been made and will vigorously defend ourselves in the appropriate forum.”

The fallout is a far cry from the party spirit with which Combs announced his original deal.

“BREAKING NEWS!! The BEST tequila in the WORLD has arrived, ppl! The Tequila Deleon wave starts NOW! #DeleonTequila READ THIS,” he announced on Twitter in 2014.


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