In a complaint filed in New York, Sean ‘P Diddy’ Combs has accused alcohol behemoth Diageo of racial discrimination and breaking the terms of their business partnership by neglecting the tequila brand they purchased together because he is black.
The superstar rapper stated that the spirits company invested in competing brands, while depriving DeLeon Tequila the same level of support, and said that Diageo limited the drinks’ distribution to “urban” neighborhoods.
Denying the allegations, Diageo said it would “vigorously” defend its position with a spokesman for the company stating:
“This is a business dispute, and we are saddened that Mr 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 current lawsuit follows years of partnership between the UK-based alcohol firm and the artist, who rose to fame as a music executive and rapper in the 1990s before investing in other businesses.
Owner of such brands as Johnnie Walker, Guinness and Tanqueray, Diageo approached Diddy to help market the company’s Ciroc vodka in 2007. Six years later, together they bought DeLeon Tequila in 2013, but the complaint accused the beverage firm of quickly falling short of its commitments for distribution, investment and brand positioning.
P. Diddy’s company, Combs Wines & Spirits, said there was a pattern of “racial typecasting”, pointing to disputes that Diageo has had with other black business partners.
“This case is not an ordinary contract dispute in which a party chooses to disregard its contractual promises due to greed and profit,” the firm said in the filing.
“Rather, and similar to the realities experienced by many people of colour in the United States, Diageo’s treatment of its business relationship with Mr Combs was tainted by racial prejudices.”
The lawsuit cites a 2019 conversation in which a Diageo executive allegedly said Mr Combs’s brands would be more widespread had he been “Martha Stewart”, among other decisions.
At present, their product is currently available in less than 4% of possible outlets compared with more than a third for Diageo’s competing Casamigos and Don Julio tequilas, the complaint said.
Despite being repeatedly confronted over the issues, Diageo failed to repair the situation, Combs Wine & Spirits alleged, stating that intends to take separate legal action to request billions of dollars in damages and has asked the court to order the firm to “provide the equal treatment that it has contractually promised”.
Diaego said it was “disappointed our efforts to resolve this business dispute amicably have been ignored and that Mr. Combs has chosen to damage a productive and valued partnership”.
“For more than 15 years, we’ve had a productive and mutually beneficial relationship with Mr. Combs on various business ventures, making significant investments that have resulted in financial success for all involved.” “While we respect Mr. Combs as an artist and entrepreneur, his allegations lack merit, and we are confident the facts will show that he has been treated fairly.”