Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs has accused Diageo of “illegal and outrageous retaliation” and claims the drinks giant demanded his company cease promoting DeLeón Tequila and refrain from speaking to distributors and retailers.
Diageo ended its business relationship with Combs last month, stating his accusations and “bad faith actions” breached the terms of his contract.
In court filings in New York this week, Combs’ lawyers filed a response to Diageo’s motion to have Combs’ legal case dismissed or moved into arbitration.
Combs’ lawyers claimed Diageo had “illegally retaliated” against their client by ending their relationship and terminating their Cîroc vodka brand deal. The filing also claims Diageo has been trying to quell interest in the DeLeón Tequila brand.
“One major distributor asked Mr Combs to speak about DeLeón at its annual sales conference but was forced to disinvite Mr Combs after Diageo directed it to do so,” claimed Comb’s legal team.
Diageo said it was disparaged by Combs and this was in breach of a non-disparagement provision in the contract. However, Combs’ lawyers claim that the non-disparagement provision itself bars Diageo from asserting a breach if it is based on “claims made in connection with litigation or arbitration”.
How well do you really know your competitors?
Access the most comprehensive Company Profiles on the market, powered by GlobalData. Save hours of research. Gain competitive edge.
Your download email will arrive shortly
Not ready to buy yet? Download a free sample
We are confident about the unique quality of our Company Profiles. However, we want you to make the most beneficial decision for your business, so we offer a free sample that you can download by submitting the below formBy GlobalData
Combs’ filing this week states: “Diageo terminated the Cîroc relationship not because of meritorious allegations of breach, but because it wanted to retaliate against and punish Mr Combs for daring to assert Combs Wines’ legal rights.”
The Grammy award-winning artist accused Diageo of racism and intentionally sabotaging the DeLeón Tequila brand.
Combs said his Tequila product – purchased as a 50-50 joint venture with (and funded by) Diageo in 2013 – was treated differently by the company and given less priority than other celebrity-backed brands because he is black.
Diageo strenuously denies the claims.
A spokesperson for Diageo told Just Drinks: “This is a business dispute and should not be recast as anything other than that. We have exercised our contractual rights to terminate the marketing services agreement in place for Cîroc and begin the wind down of the DeLeón joint venture.
“Our actions are consistent with our desire to protect the significant investment we have made in both brands and their future growth. Mr Combs’ longstanding bad faith actions, false accusations, and breaches of contract overwhelmingly support Diageo’s justified decision to sever ties.”
Diageo and Combs first partnered in 2007 when he agreed to promote the UK-headquartered spirits company’s Cîroc vodka brand. Together, they went on to purchase the DeLeon Tequila brand in late 2013. The DeLeon brand is co-owned by Diageo and the rapper’s Combs Wines and Spirits company.