Diddy‘s highly-successful joint venture with spirits company Diageo came to an unceremonious end last month amid racism claims on the mogul’s behalf, and now more details are coming to light.
Before they parted ways, Diddy filed a lawsuit against Diageo in May for its alleged racist actions, and asked the court to determine if they violated non-disclosure or non-disparagement agreements he had signed with them.
There were various sections redacted in the filing, but on Friday (June 30), the court determined that the vast majority of the redacted material could be made public — which it was on Wednesday (July 5).
New allegations from the lawsuit paint a picture of mismanagement on Diageo’s behalf of both Diddy brands DeLeón Tequila and Cîroc Vodka, as well as claims of racist and unfair treatment toward the Bad Boy mogul. Among other things, Puff and his legal team allege:
- Diageo presented Combs with a watermelon-flavored version of the tequila, despite Mr. Combs’s objections and efforts to educate Diageo about the racial history and connotations relating to watermelon.
- Cîroc and DeLeón continued to be described as “urban brands” within the Diageo portfolio.
- Diageo planned to give all its agave, the main tequila ingredient, to its other tequila brands and allocated none for DeLeon.
- Sloppy paperwork led to a shipment of DeLeón being impounded by Mexican authorities.
- Erratic production has led to repeated shortages of DeLeón, including being out of stock at least 10 times in the past year alone.
Diddy also claims that “in advance of the launch of Ciroc’s watermelon flavor, [he] and his team explained that Diageo needed to be careful about ‘watermelon’ with a brand that it consistently characterized as an ‘urban African American brand.’
“After Diageo’s assurances, [Diddy] signed off on the watermelon flavor for Ciroc. He was adamant, however, that DeLeon should not launch any flavor until the public learned more about the brand. Yet Diageo showed up in person to Mr. Combs and his team with a developed watermelon-flavored DeLeon Tequila. They did this despite DeLeon not having flavored tequila, Mr. Combs’ consistent objection to adding flavors, and the efforts to educate Diageo about the racial history and connotations relating to watermelon.”
The new filing also revealed the contents of an email Diddy sent in April 2022 to Diageo’s then-President and current-CEO Deborah Crew expressing his frustration. The note was in response to reports that Eboni Major, the first Black blender at a major whiskey distillery, had filed suit against Diageo for discrimination.
“For years I have written to leaders at Diageo to explain that the problems regarding African American diversity and inclusion are bigger than the company has been willing to acknowledge,” he wrote. “I know what the experience of working with Diageo has been like for me and my team, so I can imagine what African American employees and suppliers have experienced.
“While our relationship has been financially successful for all stakeholders, we have not made enough progress on including and empowering the African American community Diageo relies on for billions of dollars.”
In a statement, Diddy’s attorney John Hueston vowed to come out victorious in the suit.
“These newly revealed allegations show the legitimacy and seriousness of Mr. Combs’ concerns about Diageo’s systemic mistreatment of the DeLeon brand,” Hueston said. “Rather than treat DeLeón equally, as required by contract, Diageo ignored Mr. Combs’ global appeal and inappropriately pigeon-holed his brands as ‘urban.’”
He continued: “The allegations reveal that Diageo’s approach has resulted in repeated mismanagement of production, insufficient distribution, and nonexistent sales support. Diageo has failed to take responsibility and instead has attempted to terminate its relationship with Mr. Combs merely because he spoke up. We look forward to vindicating these claims in Court and holding Diageo to its promises.”
In the meantime, Diddy has vowed to take DeLeón Tequila door-to-door to sell on his own without needing help from the spirits imprint.