Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs is suing Diageo, accusing the drinks giant of neglecting his vodka and tequila brands and treating them as inferior “urban” products.
The lawsuit, filed with the New York Supreme Court in Manhattan, claims Diageo North America starved Combs’s Ciroc vodka and DeLeon tequila of resources while showering attention on other celebrity brands.
Combs, who is black, claimed Diageo leadership told him his race was one of the reasons it limited distribution to urban neighbourhoods.
According to the legal action, the US rapper, producer and entrepreneur was also told that some Diageo leaders resented him for making too much money.
“Cloaking itself in the language of diversity and equality is good for Diageo’s business, but it is a lie,” the lawsuit said.
“While Diageo may conspicuously include images of its black partners in advertising materials and press releases, its words only provide the illusion of inclusion.”
Combs’s connection to Diageo dates back to 2007, when the company approached him about Ciroc.
The London-based firm owns more than 200 brands including Guinness stout and Tanqueray gin.
Diageo denied allegations of racism. “This is a business dispute, and we are saddened that Mr Combs has chosen to recast this matter as anything other than that,” it 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.”
In the lawsuit, Combs, 53, said he intends to seek billions of dollars in damages in other legal proceedings against Diageo.