The Decline of Sean Combs’ Revolt TV and Different Enterprise Ventures

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Lengthy earlier than he was accused of sexual misconduct in a sequence of lawsuits, and lengthy earlier than federal brokers in navy gear raided his properties in Miami and Los Angeles, Sean Combs was unforgivable.

That was the identify he had chosen for his first perfume, which he offered by way of a partnership with Estée Lauder.

It was promoted as a scent that “exudes the power, sexiness and magnificence of Sean Combs,” and he was supposed to present it a publicity increase in April 2006 by ringing the opening bell of the New York Inventory Change alongside William Lauder, the Estée Lauder chief government, and Terry Lundgren, the pinnacle of Federated Division Shops.

However Mr. Combs didn’t arrive in time for the opening of the market, saying he had been caught in visitors. So his fellow enterprise titans did the honors with out him.

By then, Mr. Combs had efficiently made the transition from Puff Daddy to the world’s most profitable hip-hop mogul.

Because the founder and chief government officer of the thriving Dangerous Boy Leisure, he made himself right into a Jay Gatsby for the hip-hop era, full with “White Events” within the Hamptons.

Vainness Honest famous his platinum gross sales, his Grammys, his vogue line, his activate Broadway in “A Raisin within the Solar” and his “Vote or Die” get-out-the-vote marketing campaign, including that he “has had his arms in virtually each thinkable side of widespread tradition and left his mark on every.”

Mr. Combs, 54, was somebody who realized, earlier than virtually anybody else, that music might function the inspiration of the mansion he was constructing for himself.

“He actually did set the template for a sure type of hip-hop entrepreneurism,” stated Michael Hirschorn, the founder and chief government of Ish Leisure, a New York manufacturing firm, and the previous head of programming at VH1. “He was actually the primary man, together with Russell Simmons, who understood the worth of taking your identify and placing it on actually the whole lot.”

And but some former colleagues and enterprise associates stated in interviews for this text that they discovered it onerous to learn the latest protection of Mr. Combs with out seeing his apparently sudden downfall as a part of a gradual decline.

The very qualities that enabled him to see throughout totally different landscapes might need been his Achilles’ heel, stated Teri Agins, a former Wall Avenue Journal reporter and the creator of “Hijacking the Runway: How Celebrities Are Stealing the Highlight from Vogue Designers.” Mr. Combs bounced from one branding alternative to a different as he “checked off packing containers,” Ms. Agins stated, with out seeming to understand that the true measure of a enterprise mogul comes not with the ignition of liftoff however with the power to keep up a mile-high altitude.

He grew up in Mount Vernon, N.Y., and was raised by his mom, Janice Combs. He attended Mount Saint Michael Academy, a Roman Catholic highschool within the Bronx, and went on to main in enterprise at Howard College. Issues moved rapidly after that. As an intern at Uptown Data, a label based by Andre Harrell, he helped produce hit remixes and “Actual Love” by Mary J. Blige, a track that launched the rapper the Infamous B.I.G.

Mr. Combs wasn’t lower out for the lifetime of an worker, and he began Dangerous Boy in 1992. It was a time when the onerous polemics of Public Enemy and the earthy ethos of De La Soul and A Tribe Known as Quest gave technique to a tradition of flash, with Mr. Combs as its avatar.

In 1998, he branched out into vogue together with his males’s put on label, Sean John.

“He knew that, when your identify additionally alerts a way of life, he might market that in some ways and types,” stated Samantha N. Sheppard, an affiliate professor and chair of the division of performing and media arts at Cornell College.

He was photographed by Annie Leibovitz for a 1999 Vogue function headlined “Puffy Takes Paris,” wherein he’s seen within the firm of the mannequin Kate Moss and the trade heavyweights Oscar de la Renta, John Galliano, Jean Paul Gaultier and Karl Lagerfeld. “It grew to become all about rap tradition and excessive vogue and the assembly of the 2 worlds,” Ms. Leibovitz stated of the shoot in a later interview.

In December of that yr, he arrived, wearing white, together with his then-girlfriend, Jennifer Lopez, on the annual Met Gala. He carried out in the course of the dinner and chatted with Henry Kissinger, who was heard asking the socialite Pat Buckley, “Why does he name himself Fluffy?” Lil’ Kim was additionally current, signaling {that a} social gathering as soon as reserved for New York’s outdated aristocracy was altering with the instances, a shift ushered in to an excellent extent by Mr. Combs.

A number of weeks later, he and Ms. Lopez made tabloid entrance pages after they fled a nightclub the place pictures have been fired, leaving three folks injured. Mr. Combs was arrested, however later acquitted; his newest hip-hop protégé, Jamal “Shyne” Barrow, was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in jail.

In 2002, Mr. Combs beat one other world-famous tabloid showman to the punch of actuality TV because the host of “Making the Band,” MTV’s precursor to “The Apprentice.” The present might be finest remembered for Mr. Combs’s demand that the contestants stroll the 5 miles on foot from Midtown Manhattan to Junior’s in Brooklyn to fetch him a slice of cheesecake. When his prices protested, he informed them they might be dismissed in the event that they failed the mission.

In 2001, he supplied a stay broadcast of a Sean John vogue present on E!, making the runway extra accessible to a large viewers. Two years later, the Yucaipa Corporations, a non-public fairness fund operated by the California billionaire Ron Burkle, poured a reported $100 million into Mr. Combs’s clothes label. The subsequent yr, the primary Sean John retailer opened on Fifth Avenue, throughout from the New York Public Library.

Maxwell Osborne, the pinnacle of the style model An Solely Little one, began his profession as an intern at Sean John at round that point. In an interview, he stated he had little doubt that there have been individuals who had “horrible” experiences working for Mr. Combs. But he was not amongst them.

He recalled Mr. Combs as somebody who noticed no hierarchies, who thought of Mr. Osborne a member of the design group from the start. Mr. Combs nicknamed Mr. Osborne “One Dread” and invited him to his events within the Hamptons.

“He noticed pressure as a part of the way you make diamonds,” Mr. Osborne stated, including that Mr. Combs didn’t maintain it towards workers who pushed again on him.

In 2004, Diddy was named the yr’s finest males’s put on designer on the Council of Vogue Designers of America’s annual awards ceremony, beating out Ralph Lauren and Michael Kors. He was the primary Black particular person to win the respect. In his acceptance speech, he gave a shout-out to Mr. Lauren and introduced: “I’m residing the American dream.”

He used his newfound standing and understanding of power-sharing to put money into different manufacturers, together with that of Zac Posen, then an up-and-coming designer favored by the Vogue editor Anna Wintour. In these days Mr. Combs was usually seated within the entrance row of Mr. Posen’s exhibits, subsequent to Ms. Wintour, because the fashions traipsed by. And he hosted high-octane vogue exhibits of his personal at Cipriani in Manhattan.

He additionally appeared then within the profitable 2004 revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin within the Solar” that, in keeping with the theater publicist Rick Miramontez, set a brand new template for methods to market a play.

Fairly than making an attempt to reel in white vacationers, the producers marketed the play to Black folks with a marketing campaign that included advertisements on city radio. The affect on producers was “seismic,” Mr. Miramontez stated, and the technique was later utilized in latest hits like “Slave Play.”

“He knew methods to launch each folks and merchandise,” Ms. Sheppard, the Cornell professor, stated. “Diddy actually knew and is aware of methods to market Black cool — the concept that vogue, particularly streetwear, might aesthetically sign a type of cultural relevance and cultural capital, to each Black folks and wider and whiter audiences.”

In 2006, the New York Put up reported that Unforgivable was bringing in $1.5 million in gross sales per week. That was greater than new fragrances from Calvin Klein, Vera Wang and Juicy Couture, in keeping with the NPD Group, a market analysis agency, which reported that Mr. Combs’s cologne outsold each different new perfume that yr.

Mr. Combs introduced his sequel cologne, “I Am King,” in 2008 with a Instances Sq. commercial — displaying him in a white tux — that was reported to be the tallest billboard in Manhattan as much as that time. However “I Am King” didn’t match the gross sales of his unique scent, former colleagues stated. And Mr. Combs’ behavior of displaying up hours late to conferences and berating Estée Lauder executives grew to become a supply of consternation, stated one one that was granted anonymity to explain inner enterprise conferences.

In 2009, Estée Lauder opted to not renew Mr. Combs’s contract. That was when issues appeared to take a flip.

Mr. Combs’ enterprise into ladies’s put on didn’t meet with the success of his males’s line. He “bought blinded by the headlights of superstardom,” stated Jeffrey Banks, a CFDA board member who labored for Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein earlier than beginning his personal model within the Seventies.

Stressed and impressive, Mr. Combs explored the thought of beginning a cable community with Mr. Burkle and Bob and Harvey Weinstein. “For a minute, I used to be going to be the fifth associate on it,” Mr. Hirschorn stated. “Then the entire thing type of collapsed for causes that weren’t tremendous clear. However I believe he imagined, ‘I’m going to take over the technique of manufacturing and never solely be a star.’”

By then, the Sean John label had crested. Mr. Combs obtained what trade colleagues stated was a profitable deal as a spokesman for Diageo, the alcoholic beverage firm behind Johnnie Walker, Tanqueray, Guinness and different manufacturers — solely to be outdone in that discipline by a fellow superstar turned enterprise mogul, George Clooney, who began a tequila model with two companions and ended up promoting it to Diageo for roughly $1 billion.

As Mr. Combs’s pursuits splintered, his fellow hip-hop impresarios caught up. Amongst different enterprise pursuits, Jay-Z had Rocawear, a clothes line he named after the administration firm he headed and whose roster included Rihanna and J. Cole. Kanye West achieved scale on his vogue model largely by way of a partnership with Adidas. That supplied Mr. West with an infrastructure that Mr. Combs lacked, in keeping with Ms. Agins.

Pharrell Williams, the tremendous producer who had labored with Justin Timberlake and Gwen Stefani, moved into vogue with a retailer referred to as the Billionaire Boys Membership. And with the music government Jimmy Iovine, Dr. Dre began Beats Electronics, an organization that will be offered to Apple for $3 billion. Even the famously laid-back Snoop Dogg discovered himself in The Wall Avenue Journal.

Finally, Ms. Sheppard stated, Mr. Combs “was capable of see the connection from artistry to trade and aesthetics, however he was additionally restricted by his artistry, which by no means fairly developed sufficient to get him to the following degree.”

In 2013, Mr. Combs lastly began his personal cable community, Revolt, a would-be competitor to MTV and BET, in partnership with Comcast. On the time of its launch, he opened up about his father, Melvin Earl Combs, in a video titled “Confessions” that was posted on Revolt’s social media channels: “My father was killed once I was 3 years outdated,” Mr. Combs stated, including, “He was a drug seller. He was a hustler.”

Mr. Hirschorn stated that Mr. Combs “virtually pulled it off” when he went into the TV enterprise. “He was proper about determining a distinct segment low-cost cable channel,” he stated. “He was mistaken in regards to the decline of cable usually, and it by no means actually did something that grew to become a part of the cultural dialog.”

In 2016, Mr. Combs led a nationwide Dangerous Boy reunion tour. Lil’ Kim and Religion Evans have been among the many artists who carried out with him. 4 New York-area exhibits offered out, however dates within the Midwest and the South have been canceled. Organizers blamed “scheduling conflicts,” whereas trade folks whispered of low ticket gross sales.

That very same yr, he offered Sean John to International Manufacturers Group for an undisclosed sum — solely to purchase it again 5 years later for $7.5 million, a seeming reflection of its diminished standing.

At the same time as he gave the impression to be settling into the position of elder statesman — a lifetime achievement honor on the BET Awards in 2022; a International Icon Award on the MTV Video Music Awards in 2023 — Mr. Combs made an try and recapture the zeitgeist.

He teased a Sean John couture assortment on the Met Gala, when he arrived in a black cape of his personal design festooned with camellias. Afterward, he hosted a celebration at Field, a downtown burlesque membership. Visitors included Paris Hilton, Marc Jacobs and Ms. Blige.

Later that month, Mr. Combs filed a lawsuit towards Diageo in New York State Supreme Court docket, alleging that he had been subjected to racist therapy by the corporate. The swimsuit was finally settled, with out admission of fault on the a part of Diageo. Whoever was in the appropriate, what appeared to not be in dispute was that, like a lot of Mr. Combs’s ventures, his affiliation with the spirits firm had fizzled.

Within the fall of 2023, Mr. Combs launched his first solo album since 2006, “The Love Album: Off the Grid.” Weeks after it was nominated for a Grammy, the singer Cassie, a onetime Dangerous Boy artist, filed swimsuit towards Mr. Combs, accusing him of rape and repeated bodily abuse over a couple of decade.

It was the primary in a sequence of lawsuits filed towards Mr. Combs. It’s unclear whether or not they’re associated to the investigation into his affairs by federal prosecutors within the Southern District of New York and by federal brokers with Homeland Safety Investigations. By way of a lawyer, Mr. Combs has vehemently denied all of the claims made towards him.

The latest lawsuit was filed by Rodney Jones Jr., a music producer often known as Lil Rod. He accused Mr. Combs of constructing undesirable sexual contact and of forcing him to rent prostitutes and take part in intercourse acts in the course of the making of “The Love Album.”

If Mr. Combs thought that, after his greater than two-decade foray into varied companies, he would discover a secure haven in music, he was mistaken. It appeared that he had gone from “I Am King” to cautionary story.

Alain Delaquérière contributed analysis.

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