Close Menu

Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs accuses Diageo of racism in legal action

Musician and entrepreneur Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs’ wine and spirits business has filed legal action against Diageo in New York, claiming the drinks firm neglected his brand on the grounds of race.

The filing to the Supreme Court of the State of New York, by Combs Wine and Spirits company, said Diageo’s public statements “tout that it supposedly believe[s] the most inclusive and diverse culture makes for better business and a better world,” and that “diversity fuels growth and innovation and ensures we can authentically sell our brands to our consumers.”

But Combs Wines and Spirits alleges that “cloaking itself in the language of diversity and equality is good for Diageo’s business, but it is a lie”.

The lawsuit, which claims the drinks firm broke its agreement with Combs Wines and Spirits, said that Diageo “conspicuously include images of its Black partners in advertising materials and press releases” but that its words “only provide the illusion of inclusion”.

It said that Diageo had “proven unwilling to treat its Black partners equally— even when explicitly required by contract to do so”.

Since 2007 , Combs has handled the marketing and promotion for Ciroc in the United States having signed an “equal-share venture”, reported to have been worth US$100 million at the time, with the proceeds from the label being split between Combs and Diageo.

Fully established in the world of spirits, in 2013, Combs founded his own Combs Wine & Spirits, and in 2014 jointly acquired DeLeón Tequila with Diageo.

Combs himself has fronted many of the campaigns for the brands, such as a DeLeón one aimed at millennial consumers in 2015 with a “short attention span”, and teamed up with rapper French Montana on a “motivational” Ciroc vodka campaign to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs.

In the lawsuit, Combs Wines and Spirits said Diageo had ‘invested in and expanded its other brands – many of which were acquired after Ciroc and DeLéon – Mr. Combs’ brands were allowed to wither, getting increased attention only if Combs Wines demanded it under threat of legal action”.

In a statement, Diageo refuted the accusations and said it was ‘saddened’ by the legal action.

It said: “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.”

It looks like you're in Asia, would you like to be redirected to the Drinks Business Asia edition?

Yes, take me to the Asia edition No