US rapper Flo Rida has been awarded $82.6m in damages after successfully suing Celsius Holdings for violating the conditions of an endorsement deal.
A Florida court ruled that Celsius Holdings – the energy drinks firm in which PepsiCo owns an 8.5% stake – had breached its contract with the rapper, failing to provide the 43-year-old with stock options and other bonuses he was promised.
Flo Rida – real name Tramar Dillard – and his production company Strong Arm Productions sued Celsius in May 2021.
The plantiffs argued that Dillard had “maintained a successful endorsement partnership with Celsius which was highly effective in opening new doors for Celsius and its products”.
The ‘Right Round’ singer, who acted as a brand ambassador for the energy drinks firm between 2014-2018, said he had been promised 1% ownership of the company as part of his role in developing and expanding the Celsius brand.
The contracts drawn up, however, prevented him from benefitting financially, he argued.
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Dillard told news agency AP: “Basically, I helped birth this company and all we was looking for was some trustworthy people who acted as if they were family … then when it comes down to the success of today, they just forgot about me.”
In response, Celsius argued the company’s growth was due to the work of its employees and business decisions made, rather than as a result of Flo Rida’s endorsement. The jurors, however, ruled Celsius had breached its agreements with the rapper, fraudulently hiding information about the company’s success from him.
Responding to the ruling, a spokesperson for Celsius said: “Celsius is disappointed with the result and disagrees with the jury’s verdict, we intend to appeal based on several grounds.
“This decision doesn’t take away from all Celsius has accomplished over the last several years and we look forward to achieving continued success and delivering quality products to our customers.”
John Uustal, one of Dillard’s lawyers, said Dillard was open to reconciliation and would accept the 1% stake in the company he believed he was promised instead of the $82m.
Uustal said: “He [Flo Rida] loved the product and it’s been a very successful four-year relationship.
“There were some benchmarks. He was supposed to get stock when certain things happened. And there became a dispute about whether those benchmarks had been reached. So that’s what this was about.”