© Combs Global, Sean 'Diddy' Combs
Diageo has ended its business relationship with Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs after the rapper accused the drinks giant of racism in a US lawsuit.
The company announced its decision to sever ties while formally responding to the lawsuit, which it called to be dismissed.
The document released in relation to the lawsuit at the beginning of the month stated that Diageo starved Combs’ brands of resources for production, distribution and sales. It said it only received increased attention if Combs Wines and Spirits demanded it “under threat of legal action”.
Combs also alleged that Diageo’s president of reserve and new business, Stephen Rust, told Combs that “things would be different if he were a white, not Black, celebrity”.
A Diageo spokesperson said that it was “saddened” that Combs had “chosen to recast a business dispute as anything other than that and chosen to damage a productive and valued partnership”.
The spokesperson continued: “Combs’ bad-faith actions have clearly breached his contracts and left us no choice but to move to dismiss his baseless complaint and end our business relationship. Combs has repeatedly undermined our partnerships and threatened to publicly defame Diageo if we did not meet his unreasonable financial demands.”
Diageo said it had invested more than $100 million in the DeLeón brand and has “tried for years to salvage the broken relationship with Combs”.
In its response to the lawsuit, Diageo said the Combs parties had failed to fund the joint venture as an equal, 50% owner, having invested $1,000 total in funds, “despite having made nearly a billion dollars” over a 15-year relationship, the spokesperson added.
The spokesperson continued: “We have exhausted every reasonable remedy and see no other path forward”.
Addressing this claim, Combs’ attorney John C. Hueston said: “Combs has complied with his contractual obligations relating to funding. Diageo partnered with him to use his widely-known name and likeness to promote DeLeon. Its new, apparent focus on monetary funding belies the immense value Combs brought to establishing and growing the DeLeon brand.”
Hueston added: “Diageo attempting to end its deals with Mr Combs is like firing a whistleblower who calls out racism. It’s a cynical and transparent attempt to distract from multiple allegations of discrimination. Over the years, he has repeatedly raised concerns as senior executives uttered racially insensitive comments and made biased decisions based on that point of view.”
Diageo said it remains committed to the success of the Cîroc and DeLeón brands.
In 2007, Combs was contacted by the drinks giant to “help grow its then struggling vodka brand,” Cîroc. Combs and Diageo acquired the DeLeón tequila brand in 2014.
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