Sean 'Diddy' Combs Wins Round in Racism Suit Against Diageo
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Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs Wins First Round in Diversity Suit Against Liquor Giant Diageo


Sean “Diddy” Combs arrives to ring the closing bell of the New York Stock Exchange during the “Let’s Get It” CIROC campaign launch in New York, NY, on August 30, 2016. (Photo: Anthony Behar/AP)

The Supreme Court of New York has sided with music mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs in the first round of legal proceedings against liquor giant Diageo. On Thursday, Judge Joel M. Cohen denied Diageo’s motion to dismiss a highly publicized lawsuit accusing the company of mismanagement and racial discrimination.

Outside of court, Combs’ attorney John Hueston remarked: “This case has always been about getting fair and equal treatment. Today’s decision is an important step in the right direction. Diageo tried to end this action. Today the judge soundly rejected that effort.”

The origins of the alleged conflict date back to 2007, when Combs partnered with Diageo for the launch of Cîroc Vodka. In 2013, Combs doubled down and inked a similar co-ownership deal for DeLeon Tequila.

Over the next decade, Combs’ team alleges that Diageo racially stereotyped the musician’s alcohol investments, pouring resources into brands like Casamigos and Don Julio at the expense of Comb’s product stock, distribution and marketing.

The suit claims, “Diageo has typecasted Cîroc and DeLeon, apparently deciding they are ‘Black brands’ that should be targeted only to ‘urban’ consumers.” Unsealed documents allege that Diageo reallocated agave supply to other brands, discontinued popular “half-bottles” and at one point proposed a watermelon-flavored tequila that Combs believed was racially coded.

Following the lawsuit, Diageo denied the “baseless” claims and cut ties with Combs, a move that the musician likened to “firing a whistleblower who calls out racism.” Combs has since clarified that he is still a co-owner of Cîroc and DeLeon; the suit, if successful, would compel Diageo to honor the terms of their initial 2013 joint-venture agreement.

Thursday’s court ruling rejected Diageo’s motion to move the case into arbitration, granting Combs broad discovery to uncover evidence surrounding the alleged mismanagement of his brands.

In a public statement, Diageo attorneys said: “While we are disappointed with today’s procedural decision, it is important to underscore that this is not a ruling on the merits of the claims, which we maintain are false and baseless. We are currently considering all legal options.”

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Pedro Wolfe is the managing editor of Tequila Raiders. With several years of experience writing for the New York Daily News and the Foothills Business Daily under his belt, Pedro aims to combine quality reviews and recipes with incisive articles on the cutting edge of the tequila world. Pedro has traveled to the heartland of the spirits industry in Tequila, Mexico, and has conducted interviews with agave spirits veterans throughout Mexico, South Africa and California. Through this diverse approach, Tequila Raiders aims to celebrate not only tequila but the rich tapestry of agave spirits that spans mezcal, raicilla, bacanora, pulque and so much more.