Diddy Accuses Diageo of ‘Illegal Retaliation’ in Ciroc & DeLeon Legal Battle

Sean “Diddy” Combs has accused his former business partner Diageo of “illegal retaliation” in a new legal filing on Wednesday, the latest move in their ongoing legal battle.

via NYP:

Diageo, which had distributed the rapper’s Ciroc vodka and DeLeon tequila brands, cut ties with Combs last month after he filed a suit accusing the company of racism in the promotion and distribution of his liquor labels.

“The message is clear — if you dare to shed light on Diageo’s conduct, you will be punished,” Combs’ lawyers said in documents filed in New York State Supreme Court on Wednesday and obtained by The Post.

Diageo, the world’s largest spirits company, has asked the court to toss the lawsuit.

However, the filing called Diageo’s motion to dismiss the case “smoke and mirrors,” and asked the court to ignore the request.

The complaint stated Combs “is not seeking money damages here for the breach of the DeLeón Agreement.” Combs’ original complaint, filed in late May, had sought billions in damages.

The 53-year-old entrepreneur’s counsel at Hueston Hennigan LLP did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment.

“This is a business dispute and should not be recast as anything other than that,” a spokesperson for Diageo told The Post, adding that the brand exerted “our contractual rights to terminate the marketing services agreement in place for Ciroc and begin the wind down of the DeLeón joint venture.”

The source continued: “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.”

The legal feud between the ex-business partners began in May, when Combs alleged the spirits giant “sabotaged” his DeLeón brand with shoddy packaging that “made the product look cheap,” according to the complaint.

The filing also mentioned Ciroc, a Diageo-owned brand that had a marketing services agreement with Combs that required him to help promote the vodka and assist in marketing decisions.

Combs claimed that Diageo “did not support [DeLeón and Ciroc] as promised, repeatedly failing to provide sufficient support for production, distribution and sales,” according to court documents.

Combs attributed the lack of investment to Diageo’s racist classification system, which labeled Ciroc and DeLeón as “urban,” “African American” and “black” brands based on a “misguided belief that a black entrepreneur could only appeal to others who shared his skin color.”

On the contrary, Diego “invested more than $1 billion to acquire and grow” George Clooney’s Casamigos tequila brand, the complaint pointed out.

It also noted that the spirits giant marketed Casamigos “to consumers of all races, leading to billions in sales” despite “only having white founders.”

Though the court documents didn’t point out how much money Diageo poured into Ciroc and DeLeón, it claims that Combs was pivotal in helping “struggling Ciroc” go “from a meager 75,000 cases in annual sales to millions in just a few years.”

In Diageo’s motion to dismiss Combs’ complaint, however, the company states that it poured “over $100 million” into the DeLeón venture. Combs only made a “$1,000 initial capital contribution,” according to the court documents shared with The Post.

Combs’ relationship with Diageo dates to 2007, when the London-based company — which owns more than 200 brands, including Guinness beer and Tanqueray gin — approached Combs about Ciroc.

Combs has reportedly taken home nearly $1 billion throughout his tie-up with Diageo.

We wonder just how ugly this is going to get.

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