Rapper, producer and entrepreneur Sean “Diddy” Combs sued Diageo on Wednesday, saying the spirits company failed to make promised investments in its vodka and tequila brands and treated them as shoddy “urban” products.
The suit, filed in New York Superior Court in Manhattan, says Diageo North America deprived Combs’ brands of Ciroc vodka and DeLeon tequila of resources even as it drew attention to other popular brands. Diageo bought actor George Clooney’s Casamigos tequila brand for $1 billion in 2017, for example.
Combs, who is black, said Diageo’s leadership told him his race was one reason distribution was limited to urban neighborhoods. He was also told that some of Diageo’s leaders resented him for making too much money, according to the lawsuit.
“Hiding itself in the language of diversity and equality is good for Diageo’s business, but it is a lie,” the suit said. “While Diageo may explicitly include images of its black partners in advertising materials and press releases, its words only provide the illusion of inclusion.”
Combs’ relationship with Diageo dates back to 2007, when the London-based company — which owns more than 200 brands, including Guinness beer and Tanqueray gin — approached Combs about Ciroc.
In a statement, Diageo denied allegations of racism.
“This is a commercial dispute, and we are saddened that Mr. Combs has chosen to restate this as anything but that,” the company said in a statement. “While we respect Mr. Combs as an artist and businessman, his allegations lack merit, and we trust that the facts will show that he was treated fairly.”
In the suit, Combs said he intends to seek billions of dollars in damages in further legal action against Diageo.