Jay-Z Wants Out Of Cognac Biz, But Says Bacardi Is ‘Lowballing’ and ‘Stonewalling’

Jay-Z wants to sell his stake in D’Usse Cognac, and says that Bacardi – which owns the other half of the business – is legally required to buy it. But in a new lawsuit, the superstar claims the liquor giant is “lowballing” and “stonewalling” him to get a cheaper price.

In a complaint filed in Delaware court, Jay-Z’s SCLiquor LLC says that it exercised a contractual option to sell its 50 percent stake in D’Usse to Empire Investments, the Bacardi unit that owns the other half and runs the company’s day-to-day operations. Hov’s company claims the move came after years of “mismanagement and underperformance” by Bacardi.

But according to the lawsuit, which was made public on Thursday (Oct. 20), Bacardi and Empire responded to the move not by following the rules, but by refusing to hand over key information and scheming to “artificially depress” the price it would pay.


“Empire sought to stall and stonewall SC’s efforts in an attempt to wrest SC’s 50% membership interest in D’Usse at a cheaper price by, among other things, refusing to provide necessary information,” SCLiquor’s lawyers wrote.

According to the lawsuit, SCLiquor holds a so-called “put option” on D’Usse’s corporate entity, a legal mechanism that, when triggered, requires Bacardi to buy out Jay-Z’s half of the business. The two sides are supposed to negotiate in “good faith,” exchange information and agree on a fair price.

But Jay-Z’s lawyers say that when they exercised the put option last year, Empire and Bacardi did anything but operate in good faith.

“Instead, Empire has abused its day-to-day control of D’Usse to deprive SC of information necessary to … assess D’Usse’s value,” SCLiquor’s lawyers wrote. “Empire has done so by engaging in an apparent shell-game with its parent company Bacardi.”

They say the move to sell off Hov’s stake came amid “growing concern” about how Empire was running the company, including its “blatant conflict of interest” with Bacardi. Jay-Z’s lawyers say Empire has relied on Bacardi to provide key services, even though the parent company has had repeated failures that hurt D’Usse, including supply chain failures and an unwillingness to change prices.

In its current form, the lawsuit is only seeking to force Empire to turn over more information about D’Usse. But the complaint says that information will also be used to “investigate potential future actions for damages.”

A rep for Bacardi did not immediately return a request for comment on the lawsuit.

Bill Donahue