If there’s one thing Diddy (neé Sean Combs) will do, it’s ensure Black entrepreneurs and business owners have a seat at the table in every industry. The entertainer and business mogul recently filed a lawsuit against major spirits distributor Diageo, over accusations that the company failed to pour resources into his liquor brands, Ciroc and Deleon. He is seeking billions in damages.
“Cloaking itself in the language of diversity and equality is good for Diageo’s business, but it is a lie,” the lawsuit, filed with the New York Supreme Court, read. “While Diageo may conspicuously include images of its Black partners in advertising materials and press releases, its words only provide the illusion of inclusion.”
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Diddy claims that Diageo often backs its non-Black tequila and vodka brands, like George Clooney's Casamigos, with added funding and resources, while using Black and Brown faces in much of the marketing and branding. The Ciroc owner further alleges that the distributor's leadership told him his race was one of the reasons it limited distribution to urban neighborhoods. He was also told that some Diageo leaders resented him for making too much money, according to the lawsuit.
Diageo released a statement in relation to the lawsuit: “This is a business dispute, and we are saddened that Mr. Combs has chosen to recast this matter as anything other than that,” the company said in a statement. “While we respect Mr. Combs as an artist and entrepreneur, his allegations lack merit, and we are confident the facts will show that he has been treated fairly.”
According to recent statistics, Black consumers account for 12% of alcohol sales but only 7.8% of the workforce and 2% of executives. As of 2022, Ciroc was among the top-selling Black-owned brands on the market. For Diddy, this battle is bigger than just seeking resource for Ciroc and Deleon—it's also the first step in ensuring other Black-owned spirit brands are given an even playing field in the industry as a whole.