Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs set the record straight on the racial discrimination lawsuit between him and spirits seller Diageo during Earn Your Leisure’s (EYL) Invest Fest in Atlanta this weekend.
The hip hop mogul spoke with EYL hosts Rashad Bilal and Troy Billings about the ongoing issue with the spirits maker he once had a 15-year-long partnership with. The rift first became public earlier this summer, when Diddy filed a racial discrimination against Diageo, stating it treated the joint venture DeLeón Tequila unfairly.
“The situation is in the courts now, so I’m going to share with you all what I can,” he said to the crowd of about 20,000 attendees.
He continued: “I had to send my people down to Mexico—this is what the fight is about—They went down to Mexico, and when they got down there, they found out that there was zero agave planted for Deleon. There was no plan for it to be successful. There was no equal treatment. The other brands, they had agave planted.”
Agave plants are used to create tequila, and Diageo owns and operates agave farms in Jalisco, Mexico. As reported by Billboard, Diageo — which owns more than 200 brands including Tanqueray gin and Don Julio tequila — cut ties with Combs after he brought suit against the company citing years of neglect for DeLeón.
“Mr. Combs is misrepresenting the facts, including how agave production works,” a Diageo spokesperson shared in an exclusive statement with ESSENCE on August 30. “Despite Mr. Combs’ assertions, Diageo-owned agave plants are ‘brand agnostic’ and used across all brands, including DeLeon.”
Diageo also explained to ESSENCE that it does not allocate agave plants to any one brand while they are still in the ground. As the ripening period for agave is seven years, flexibility is needed for supply and demand and early allocation would impose agricultural carrying costs on the relevant brand.
Diageo said in a June statement that Combs’ actions breached his contracts and caused it to sever their contract with the businessman.
“We are saddened that Mr. Combs has chosen to recast a business dispute as anything other than that,” the company said per a statement as reported by the Wall Street Journal. According to the outlet, Combs stated in the suit that that the company had pigeonholed DeLeón as “urban” and described it as a “Black brand.”
He went to explain that his mission to disrupt the spirits industry, and step outside the confines of race led him to filing the suit.
“No one is coming to save us,” Combs said during Invest Fest. “Out of all the business revenue in America, only 1% goes to black businesses. But then it’s an accountability from us because we have $1.8 trillion in buying power, and only 2% of that recirculates. So, we can’t complain. We know what it is. It’s time to change the call. We have to unify our dollars or nothing will change.”