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Jay-Z Strikes Deal With Bacardi to End Billion-Dollar Legal Battle Over Shared Cognac Brand

todayFebruary 3, 2023

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After months of fighting in court, Jay-Z and Bacardi have decided it’s all cognac — er — water under the bridge.

The superstar rapper and the spirits giant said Friday they had reached an agreement to end bitter litigation over their D’Ussé Cognac brand. Under the deal, Bacardi will take over a “majority interest” in the company, which was previously split 50-50 between the two stakeholders.

The exact terms — what percentage Bacardi bought and how much Jay-Z was paid for it — were not disclosed, beyond a statement that the star would “retain a significant ownership stake” after the deal. Earlier filings in the case suggested the privately-held company could be worth as much as $5 billion.

In a statement, Jay-Z (real name Shawn Carter) said he was “excited to renew this partnership with Bacardi.”

“Growing D’Ussé over the past decade from an idea to one of the fastest-selling spirits in history has been a blessing,” the rapper wrote. “The next phase of this journey will further cement D’Ussé’s legacy as one of the world’s most respected brands.”

Until recently, Jay-Z was not at all excited to renew his D’Ussé deal with Bacardi. The rapper has spent the last year in a sprawling legal battle aimed at exiting the partnership, spanning at least four lawsuits in two states as well as private arbitration cases.

The dispute centered on Jay-Z’s exercise of a so-called “put option” — a legal mechanism in the joint venture’s operating agreement that, when triggered, required Bacardi to buy out his half of the business. Once invoked, the two sides were supposed to negotiate in “good faith,” exchange information and agree on a fair price for Bacardi to pay.

The rapper triggered the put option in September 2021, but the two sides quickly came to loggerheads over how much his half of the company was worth. The rapper suggested his half of the business was worth $2.5 billion; Bacardi said the number was just $460 million.

That core dispute eventually led to two private arbitrations, as well as lawsuits in both New York and Delaware courts. The two sides battled over what information should be used to fairly value Jay-Z’s stake, and he later accused Bacardi of “lowballing” and “stonewalling” him to get a cheaper price.

In November, unsealed court documents revealed key details of the months that had led up to the dispute.

For instance, when Bacardi offered $460 million for Jay’s half of the business, the hip-hop magnate’s attorneys said he responded by flipping the script. Rather than continue to invoke his put option requiring Bacardi to buy him out, they said he offered to go vice-versa and buy out Bacardi’s share for $1.5 billion — far more than the figure Bacardi had just cited as the fair value of half the company.

When Bacardi turned down that offer, the legal battle kicked off.

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todayFebruary 3, 2023

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