The high-stakes legal battle between Sean “Diddy” Combs and liquor giant Diageo is getting nastier with each court filing.
Diddy started his relationship with Diageo in 2007 when they collaborated on marketing the vodka brand Ciroc. Diddy tirelessly marketed and promoted Ciroc, making the company successful while earning over $1 billion for his services as a brand ambassador and marketer.
Their next venture, however, has yet to be as successful.
The rap mogul’s company Combs Wines And Spirits (CWS) formed a joint venture with Diageo to launch the DeLeón tequila brand in 2013.
In May 2023, Diddy filed a blockbuster lawsuit against Diageo, claiming the company was racist and only marketed Ciroc and DeLeón to urban consumers while favoring white-owned brands like Casamigos, which George Clooney backs.
Diageo ended up severing their business relationship with DeLeón, which Diddy further claimed was retaliation over his allegations.
In the latest back and forth, lawyers for Diageo attempted to dismantle Diddy’s beloved image as a mogul and philanthropist despite his recent multi-million dollar donations to help students and Black businesses.
The company says Diddy “discouraged Diageo from working with other Black business people and influencers and demanded that Diageo redirect millions of dollars earmarked to support such causes to him personally.”
The company claims that after they committed $100 million to help hospitality workers struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic, Diddy flew into a rage and demanded the money for himself.
“Mr. Combs demanded that Diageo pay him $100 million and threatened then to ‘reach out to every news outlet’ to ‘burn the house down’ and cause maximum damage to Diageo and the DeLeón brand, by making public accusations of racism if Diageo refused to write the check.”
The liquor company claims Diddy made good on his threats.
In addition to filing the initial lawsuit and threatening to sue for billions, the legendary businessman told a crowd of 22,000 that “Diageo wanted to keep him in the ‘colored section’ and deliberately distributed DeLeón only in Black neighborhoods” while claiming Diageo had no plans to make DeLeón successful.
Diageo maintains they invested hundreds of millions of dollars into DeLeón, while Diddy only put up $1,000 – although he did lend his “celebrity equity” to the joint venture.
Diageo also maintains that Diddy spent millions of the initial investment to pay for his private planes and other extravagant personal expenses.
The company claims Diddy became infuriated after they acquired Casamigos from George Clooney for an estimated $1 billion and said his company would never be acquired for that much because he was a Black man.
Despite these claims, the company says they “reset” their relationship with Diddy twice and managed to find success the second time.
Diageo says CWS agreed on a new marketing strategy, which resulted in “remarkable” success, ramped up production, and a doubling of the sales of DeLeón.
“Unfortunately, Mr. Combs has proven himself once and for all to be an unreliable and untrustworthy business partner, and, despite his recent efforts to rebrand himself publicly since initiating this lawsuit, Diageo is only the latest in a long line of counterparties and business relationships that Mr. Combs has burned,” a lawyer for the company fumed.
Diddy’s lawyer John C. Hueston refuted the latest claims made by Diageo in a strongly worded statement issued to AllHipHop.com today (September 29).
“Diageo claims its executives were available to hear all of Mr. Combs concerns about race and diversity issues. The sad truth is that they never truly listened to what Mr. Combs was saying and brushed them off as threats and demands for money. If they had actually taken the time to comprehend his concerns, and lived up to the agreements they signed, we wouldn’t be in court today,” Hueston said.
Diageo wants the judge to toss the case, approve an audit of CWS to recover any misappropriated funds and award them legal fees.