Sean Combs, also known by his stage name ‘Diddy’, has sued Diageo, alleging that the drinks giant has treated his brands “worse than others” because of his race.
American rapper Combs claims that Diageo has “typecasted” Cîroc and DeLeon, deciding they are “black brands” that should be targeted only to “urban consumers”.
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”.
The document released in relation to the lawsuit stated that Diageo starved Combs’ brands of resources for production, distribution and sales. It said that it only received increased attention if Combs Wines and Spirits demanded it “under threat of legal action”.
The rapper has said he intends to seek billions of dollars in damages in other legal proceedings against Diageo.
In a statement, a Diageo spokesperson told FoodBev: “This is a business dispute, and we are saddened that Combs has chosen to recast this matter as anything other than that. Our steadfast commitment to diversity within our company and the communities we serve is something we take very seriously.”
The spokesperson said the company “categorically deny the allegations” made and will “vigorously defend” itself in the appropriate forum.
The statement continued: “We are disappointed our efforts to resolve this business dispute amicably have been ignored and that Combs has chosen to damage a productive and valued partnership. While we respect Combs as an artist and entrepreneur, his allegations lack merit, and we are confident the facts will show that he has been treated fairly.”
Combs was first approached by Diageo more than 15 years ago, in 2007 he was contacted by the drinks giant to “help grow its then struggling vodka brand,” Cîroc. Combs and Diageo acquired the DeLeon tequila brand in 2014.
The document said that the years following the signing of the Cîroc agreement were filled with supply issues and a lack of meaningful distribution. It added: “Despite Combs’ repeated pleas, Diageo failed time and time again to devote the proper attention, resources and support to Cîroc”.
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