Power Executives: Sean Combs

It seems that everything Sean “Diddy” Combs has ever touched turned to gold… and vodka, and now tequila.

Whether it’s been Sean, Diddy, or Puffy, the music and business mogul behind each moniker has built an empire that he could equally divide to them as separate people. His lens of luxury has been his vehicle to signing some of the biggest names in music and also wheeling culturally relevant commentary on the fashion, hospitality, and lifestyle industries.

It’s hard to believe that the guy joshing around behind Biggie Smalls and Mase in music videos is the same guy toasting his glass in Ciroc ads. But I suppose it was even clear in the days of 90s Hip-Hop that Combs had a niche for separating himself from his competition. It’s the lane that he’s created for himself which has allowed him the type of business print that never existed before him. He builds kosher relationships with industry tastemakers, and serves as a sort of emblem for your modern Made in America story.

Combs, after already having success in the fashion industry with introducing higher-end urbanwear label, Sean John, ventured a partnership with Diageo, the world’s largest spirits distributer, and transformed a 50,000-case-per-year vodka into the nearly 2 million-per-year Ciroc. Now the bottles sparkle their way on the most expensive tables in the most expensive clubs across America.

For the last week,  if you follow Combs on Instagram you might have seen a few photos he’s posted about an alcohol brand other than Ciroc. Perhaps you may have even read the rumors in the media. Diageo and Combs had apparently inked another deal, with this one making him an equal partner with Diageo in equity terms. We now know that the deal is confirmed and that Combs will indeed have such a partnership with Diageo’s luxury Tequila brand, DeLeón. The deal was made possible via his newly formed business enterprise, Combs Wine & Spirits, a name that suggests a long term hold over the premium drinks business.

DeLeón Tequila is certified as 100% blue weber agave tequila. Founded and created by Brent Hocking in 2008, the DeLeón imprint was first introduced to the U.S. market on Cinco de Mayo, 2009. Its pure taste and fine presentation has it listed between $120 and upwards of $1,000 per bottle. DeLeón prides itself in not using any of the CRT’s ( Consejo Regulador Del Tequila) four allowable chemicals in their Tequila, and has positioned itself as perhaps the leading name in high-life Tequila.

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“When Sean shared his passion with DeLeón with me, I got really passionate, and then a whole lot of people at Diageo got really passionate about it,” says Larry Schwartz, Diageo North America President. Forbes reports how Schwartz recalls Diddy telling him about how he’d come across DeLeón while spending time at high-end locales, and that he’d been moved by the tequila’s taste and immaculate design.

Diddy and Larry Schwartz

It’s common to develop a palate for luxury once you make it to a certain social status, but it’s certainly special when someone uses natural good taste as the crux of their success. The Combs’ brand is premised on celebration, while the rest of us work  hard everyday just to taste a dash of the lifestyle.

“I always knew what I was going to be when I grew up,” Combs says, reflecting on his ability to control the direction of his life through entrepreneurship. “Being an entrepreneur means freedom, it means independence. It means being invested and believing in myself.”

Unlike the jet-set angle that Combs has successfully marketed with Ciroc, he claims that his approach to DeLeón will be completely different. In his effort, Combs wants to change the way people think about Tequila.

Try it: When’s the last time you’ve ordered tequila on the rocks? Probably never. We associate it with margaritas, and at the most, shots, but Combs says that he wants to make DeLeón “the world’s first sipping tequila.”

Other than Jay Z, it’s hard to think of another music industry figure who’s been as lucrative in their commentary on the greater sphere of popular culture and premium lifestyle. There seems to be no bounds to Combs’ vision of his legacy or that he’s in any hurry to let the next guy get a shot at making a quarter of his half a billion dollar empire.

2014 is shaping up to be another promising year for Combs, as we keep an eye out for more of his developing business and music ventures.

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