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The majority of Diddy’s wealth stems from his 50-50 partnership with Diageo for Ciroc vodka. At its peak, Ciroc has sold 2 million cases per year. But Diddy also has major stakes in DeLeon tequila and the newly-acquired cannabis assets from Creso Labs and Columbia Care.
How much of that Ciroc playbook can be replicated with tequila and cannabis?
Tarik says DeLeon is the fastest-growing tequila in the United States. Tequila is a less mature liquor than vodka, but U.S. tequila sales may soon outpace vodka as the #1 spirits category. Tequila has different drinking occasions, which shifts the marketing and messaging. Ciroc ads were known for those modern day rat pack trips to Las Vegas, DeLeon’s ads have taken a more romantic vibe.
Cannabis is a more complex industry. Many Black business leaders want in to help reset the narrative. Historically, the criminalization of weed affects Black people disproportionately, but the legalization of weed has benefitted white business owners the most.
Several Black celebrities have struggled to build sustainable businesses in an industry that is highly regulated and known for grassroots movements. Drake’s cannabis line More Life is no more, Jay Z’s partnership with The Parent Company has just restructured to save costs, and several others have come and gone. Berner’s Cookies business is one of the few successful cannabis companies led by a hip-hop artist.
But Tarik doesn’t see Diddy as another celebrity investor in the space:
“One of the biggest misnomers, when people think about Sean Combs entering cannabis, is thinking this as a celebrity cannabis deal…we think about a guy with an amazing track record of building culturally-relevant brands. Does he have the resources and platforms to raise the capital to a deal like this? Check. Does he have the ability to attract the talent you need? Check.”
It will be interesting to see how Cresco Labs and Columbia Care fit in with the culture of REVOLT, Sean John, and other Combs Enterprises companies.
Audience insights from diehard customers at REVOLT Summit
Each year, the REVOLT Summit in Atlanta brings the media company’s community together for an annual celebration of Black culture. It generates ticket revenue, sponsorships, and audience insights.
Tarik says that the summit is a testing ground for new concepts and ideas for all the consumer brands in the portfolio, which makes sense. If we created a sales funnel for CE, the REVOLT Summit would be at the bottom section for the die-hard fans. The Summit is a high-priced event that attracts the fans most likely to support and promote your products for them.
The right product can turn an audience like this into an informal street team where they tell their friends, who tell their friends, and so on. On the flip side, if the REVOLT Summit audience doesn’t enjoy a new product or idea, it’s safe to assume that others wouldn’t either.
Bad Boy for life
Diddy is sitting on one of hip-hop’s most-prized music catalogs, Bad Boy Records. He has gotten several offers during the catalog sales boom, but Tarik says they have turned them all down.
“People have continually come through with offers and opportunities, and we’ve purposely taken our time as we’ve thought about what Puff’s experience is going to be over the next 10 years as he climbs his second mountain.”
There are a few reasons why Diddy hasn’t sold. First, the CE portfolio gives the catalog an ecosystem to keep the assets relevant. For example, classic Biggie tracks can be leveraged in a spirit promotion or in REVOLT content. The music creates a halo effect across Diddy’s businesses.
Second, Puff isn’t pressed for money in the way that a legacy artist may be. His business makes money. He’s afforded the time to experiment with the catalog and see if new monetization opportunities arise.
And lastly, Diddy is getting back to music. Last year he launched Love Records under Motown. He just dropped a new single with PARTYNEXTDOOR to promote his upcoming album in early 2023. He would rather reap the rewards from the Bad Boy Records assets himself for the foreseeable future.
In this episode we covered a bunch of other topics:
– Did Puff’s rumored Twitter investment actually happen?
– Why Diddy’s Carolina Panthers purchase attempt didn’t happen?
– What’s next for Sean John?
Listen to the full episode here:
0:00 Combs Enterprises’ focus in 2023
1:09 Synergies between Diddy’s different businesses
3:53 Using Revolt Summit as a testing ground
6:00 Origins of the “Ciroc playbook”
8:36 How much strategic overlap is there between Ciroc and DeLeon marketing?
15:06 Entering the cannabis space
21:38 Regulatory challenges in the cannabis industry
25:55 Why Diddy is not just another celebrity entrepreneur
31:47 How Combs Enterprises invests in startups
34:52 Did Diddy really back Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter?
36:55 No rush to sell Bad Boy Records catalog
42:20 Sean John comeback
46:10 Diddy’s attempt to buy the Carolina Panthers in 2018
[00:00:00] Tarik Brooks: Twitter’s impact in society is certainly bigger than how it shows up from a profit and loss and from a market cap perspective. And when you look at, you know, where Twitter is trading today is trading at a fraction of like Facebook or like Snapchat is the question from an investment perspective with some you could create meaningful.
[00:00:33] Dan Runcie: Hey, welcome to the podcast. I’m your host and the founder of Dan Runcie. This podcast is your place to gain insights from the executives in music, media, entertainment, and more who are taking hip hop culture to the next level.
[00:00:53] Dan Runcie: All right, today we got my guy, Tarik Brooks, the president of Combs Enterprise. Second time on the podcast. Great to have you back, man.
[00:01:01] Tarik Brooks: Happy New Year my brother. Great to be back.
[00:01:03] Dan Runcie: So what’s the latest from the House of Combs?
[00:01:08] Tarik Brooks: Things are wonderful enterprises, man. Tremendous 2022, where we did a lot of investing in our existing platforms and in new platforms. And so, you know, the big push in 23. Is to operationalized and grow a lot of those new platforms. You know, a lot of people are familiar with the cannabis deal, which we announced late last year. We’re gonna close that deal and get that operational. We’ve also been working on an e-commerce platform with Salesforce, called it Power Global, that will launch this year, you know, released music last year. That did great. I mean, he and a sub-Christian. You know, with the first father and son duo to be number one. At the same time, there’ll be more projects from Love Records coming in this year. So a lot of new things are in 23, so I wanna accustom a lot of exciting developments.
[00:01:56] Dan Runcie: And I feel like one of the strengths for him whenever he is launching a new brand is being able to find some type of synergy between something that he’s done that’s already worked and finding some way to tie it all together. And for you, I know you’ve been there for a couple years. Is there like one company or one tie in that really stands out about, oh yeah, what Puff is able to do here? Tweak the formula a little bit, brought it over to this company and then it helped that one too.
[00:02:22] Tarik Brooks: Yeah. It is interesting, man, like, because you know, with the ecosystem we have that there are synergies all over the place that we work hard to exploit everyday. What I’ll tell you bigger thing is that underneath our ecosystem sits the core premise, a core belief that our culture drives culture, that our people drive what’s cool and what’s next and what’s hot in a meaningful way. So, you know, you go back to blues and jazz and rock and roll to hip hop, TikTok, viral dances, like our people drive that. And so if you look at all of the different elements in our ecosystem. What you see are different sectors that we drive through our cultural presence. And so when you look at our platform through that lens, you see how they all fit together. So then synergies just become finding places where, you know, we can work together to make one plus one equal three or four. Right? And so like, you know, easy examples when you think about how you know our brands will show up at the Revolt Summit. So Revolt hosts this amazing event every year in Atlanta. 10,000 people come. It gives us an opportunity to kinda have revolt, touch to people, but also have ourown touch to people for us to do research for new companies that we’re developing the test concepts. These are ways that we don’t place there with our ecosystem. I mean, I look at a great example. Deleon tequila. Used Druski in an ad, you know, super funny guy. Did a tremendous job with the ad. We then, you know, connected in with the team in Revolt and he did something with Revolt. It ended up being a great, great opportunity there. So like throughout our ecosystem, you see all these opportunities that exist with our portfolio companies and with the companies that we invest in. We think about how we invest and part of it is all the stuff you expect from any traditional investment vehicle. You know, do you have great leadership? Do you have a strong destructive concept? But what we also know about there two or three ways that this thing could be utilized is our ecosystem for the company. So it’s an everyday activity, you know, finding, exploiting, and developing those things
[00:04:31] Dan Runcie: You mentioned earlier about the Revolt Summit and how that can be a test space for whether it’s new products or new things. Can you talk more about that? Cause I think that’s really interesting.
[00:04:40] Tarik Brooks: Yeah, so I mean this past Revolt Summit, the team at Empowered Global, which is the eCommerce platform that I just mentioned, had a space set up where they could introduce the concept to the participants at the Revolt Summit. And more than that, we actually had, and it was, I gotta find you a picture of this. A digital vending machine that was filled with black-owned products. So, and kinda like what you would see at the airport where you have vending machines, where they kinda have, you know, non typical vending machine products, headphones, and different things like that. Our vending machine that we had set up in the Revolt Summit was all filled with products that were owned by black that came from black owned companies. And so that was like just a real example. In that moment, we were able to introduce people to the concept of the platform, try out some new tech and get real time feedback from people who we believe will be a part of that target.
[00:05:34] Dan Runcie: That makes sense. Yeah. Because you wanna have people that are first bought in, you get the people there and I think the people that are gonna attend Revolt Summit likely end up being culture shapers or mavens within their particular area themselves. They start saying something’s good, and then they can, you know, go back and that’s how you’re able to spread things.
[00:05:52] Tarik Brooks: 100%. It’s the way, you know, everybody talks about it in terms of synergies, but we like to talk about it in terms of not planting there, right? Like we have these resources, we have these brands that mean something to people. You know that the most impactful thing we can do is find out how putting those brands together at different times in different ways produces more information, produces more insight, produces more, you know, revenue generating opportunity than any of those entities in silos. So for me, like the silo is the enemy, right? Like the key is to have all of our leaders and all of our team members continuously engaging in a very fluid way.
[00:06:29] Dan Runcie: Yeah, the one that always stuck out to me too was Ciroc and the on the ground promotion for that, because there are so many through lines going back to The Bad Boy Days, the Bad Boy Street team, and then the Ciroc Boys. It’s very similar playbook and being able to help push that.
[00:06:45] Tarik Brooks: Yeah, I mean, look, and again, the playbook is the same. It’s the same. You know, when you look at what the spirits industry looked at at the time, it was very different from today. You know, a lot of folks don’t realize at that time the only people really trying to market, know black people in the hip was more liquor. Right? Cause I know I wasn’t on the team back then, but what I can tell you is he looked at how nightlife worked and how the culture was working and evolving and saw a huge opportunity for an aspirational luxury product. And then was able to apply a lot of the same tools that were driving his success in the music business in spirits. And so that’s how you end up with us showing up better than most people in the nightlife, us being able to have the DJs, you know, be a part of our experience. Cause Puff knew back then, in which he knows now how powerful DJs are in the culture and in the communities he lives in. If you look at even now, like a lot of, you know what he’s posted socially as, you know, the efforts around love, records, respect. Like, we get what algorithms can do, but understand like DJ is culturally important. Like they mean something to their communities and they mean something to our culture. And in that way they have outside influence, that I think people still underestimate.
[00:08:00] Dan Runcie: Yeah, I think as much as things have been movement streaming or NFTs or whatever it is, people still wanna go to the club and people still want to be in the hands of a DJ that knows what they’re doing and can introduce them.
[00:08:12] Tarik Brooks: Absolutely. There is power and curation. Right. And look, theoretically A.I. will be able to kind of take that input and lead curations that are solid. But you know it’s tough to replicate, you know, instinct. And natural art, you know? Exactly. That’s the thing, right? Like to be able to think you can do it with just an algorithm means it’s all science. And I think, you know, most entertainment industries, particularly when you talk about the power of a DJ, are art and science together. That art is that intuitive thing that, like you, some folks just have, they know when to play the right record. You know, not just cause it’s a similar bpm, but they know, cause they know that crowd, they know that venue. They know that audience better than most other people do.
[00:09:00] Dan Runcie: Definitely. And I think too, a lot of that we definitely saw with the Ciroc Playbook, but I wanna spend some time in this conversation talking a bit more about Deleon because, I think that that is relatively newer business for other portfolio, but I think there’s a lot that’s similar, but the lot that’s different too in terms of how you’ve all rolled it out, what you’ve done, how you’ve done things differently. So love to start there and maybe start first specifically, how much of the Ciroc Playbook was used with what you’ve all done so far with Deleon?
[00:09:32] Tarik Brooks: Yeah, so I think the core premise stays the same, right? What Puff has been amazing at throughout his career is being able to spot and help develop trends very early. And he saw back in 2013, 2014, that the next wave in spirits was gonna be, you know, brown spirits, in particular tequila. And so when he formed the joint venture with Diageo, that he built that knowing that a tequila wave was coming. Now from the perspective of how industries developed, tequila and vodka are two very different places, right? It is very big, very mature right now, trying to fight off the growth of some of the spirits that are taking customers away, whereas tequila is smaller but fast growing. And it’s also very nuanced. So like when you think about what we’ve been able to do driving Deleon’s growth, and Deleon right now is the fastest growing tequila in the country, right?It’s on fire right now and just, you know, small plug, you are new to tequila. Deleon are absolutely amazing. I will put them against any tequila that’s out there, you know, so smooth ice cube, orange slice. You’re good.
[00:10:41] Dan Runcie: But any numbers to share in terms of like, cases sold or anything like that?
[00:10:45] Tarik Brooks: So look, I’m not gonna go into the details on cases, but again, this is Nielsen’s data,this is not coming right? So right now, you look, it is triple digits right now, you know, comfortable cause to disclose. But what I would say is, you know, part of the Deleon story is making sure Deleon is relevant in culture. And when you hear Deleon Lemonade in the young Miami, I’m not sure when, when you see Deleon on, when you see Deleon sharp in these things, it’s a part of ensuring Deleon is relevant in the culture and shows up the right way, but there’s also a big part of the future of Deleon that will grow. Talking about the liquid itself, you know how we get to such a high quality. It is the fact that Deleon is aged in both American whiskey and French red wine barrels to get the distinctive taste that, like, that’s just part of the story that we’re still just beginning to tell and roll out as we build it. And from our view, we are building, you know, iconic, long lasting brands. We want Deleon to be thought of the same way you think about Johnny Walker or Hennessy or any other great brands that are out there. So our view is like you don’t rush that thing, you develop that story over time. You feed people in, you bring people into the brand and then you culture that and as soon you cultivate that audience, you know, as it grows. And so, you know, a lot of the kinda principles that we’ve applied in growing, we’re applying to Deleon, but we’re also being very aware that, you know, vodka and very different liquids develop differently, Exactly The same. And you think about that as you start to position the brand.
[00:12:24] Dan Runcie: Yeah, cuz I think that was a good point that you mentioned just in terms of how vodka has been the market leader just from a type of liquor for so long. So you didn’t necessarily have to do that piece of it, but it was more so Yeah. How do you bring this brand that I think some people may have forgotten about, but bring it to the same level as your great gooses in your others.
[00:12:44] Tarik Brooks: Yeah. People know people, I mean, look, the way Ciroc hadn’t been positioned in a way that was creating a lot of noise, a lot of impact, and I think, you know, part Puff’s genius was figuring out that it was amazing juice. It was amazing liquid, with beautiful bottles. So if you positioned it the right way in culture, you could create a wave. And that wave has been historic. This was a brand that was doing, you know, cases annually and now this is a case brand globally. Huge brand in the spirits industry in a sector that was big, vodka’s a very, very big sector. Tequila we’re growing Deleon as the sector’s growing as well. So it’s just, again, from a marketing perspective, a different set of challenges, but the same principles apply to how we think about leveraging culture. Leveraging, you know, our ability to kinda set trends to help drive a career meaningful brand, but it all also starts with a great quality liquid that we stand by. I mean, one of the things, right? Yeah. I think one of the things has always been super consistent about is the authenticity around, like, standing behind the products he brings to market. There’s not a variant of Deleon or flavor that gets released without Puff. Personally, we stamped that saying, you know, this is okay to go to market with our income.
[00:14:03] Dan Runcie: Right. Yeah, cuz I think the distinction too on the flip side with tequila is like, not even that it’s so much education cuz I think a lot of people know tequila, but just getting the consumer a bit of a visual of yes, this is the setting where not just our brand but this broader aspect. And I know there’s 1800 and there’s like others too. Yeah. But like you all be able to be like, hey, This is where, so some of that, what I think worked so well for sag, just in terms of thinking back to those like Vegas promo shots where they had all the people there being able to, you know, have whatever the tequila and Deleon equivalent is of that.
[00:14:39] Tarik Brooks: Yeah. I mean, look, I think a part of the tequila growth story is helping people understand that, you know, while they may have been introduced to tequila, you know, with shots on spring break or something like that, you know, once you learn more, you learn a much more complex liquid that can be enjoyed a lot of different ways mixed drinks, neat, you know, over on the rocks, you know, and all the other kinds of occasions. So I think part of our experience is helping people understand that it’s versatility is part of why it’s growing as fast as grown.
[00:15:11] Dan Runcie: Yeah, and I think too, just thinking more broadly about spirits and things that people enjoy you all now going into cannabis, I think that there are definitely some similarities there. People wanna be able to relax and enjoy what they choose, but so different in terms of not just regulation, but the culture. How has it been, just, I know, even thinking about the origins of that deal, how some of that playbook and mentality can be leveraged for what you all have now with this massive opportunity in cannabis?
[00:15:41] Tarik Brooks: Yeah, I mean, look, there are certainly two categories that are at very different stages, but you know, you could argue they’ve been on similar journeys, right? Like there was a point in time when alcohol was prohibited. When you look at the history of cannabis, you know, you start to realize a lot of the way this product category was treated was less around the specific impact of the product and more around the specific influence. The culture that was around, you know, before that was hip hop, cannabis was huge in the jazz community. And the jazz community was something that black people were bringing and spreading throughout the United States in a meaningful way and, you know, real impact culturally, and there were folks that didn’t wanna see that happen. And so a part of the criminalization of cannabis was connected to slowing down the influence of that jazz, that black culture. And so you’ve seen over the past years been that cannabis has been illegal, you know, the disproportionate criminalization of black people as it relates to cannabis, more than white people. And so this opportunity is an opportunity that gives us a chance to basically through doing good sound business, you know, rights and historical wrongs. When you look at the last 10 years of legal cannabis, Despite, you know, the overcriminalization of black people, it is dominated by white men. You know, 85, 86% owned by white men. Black people only own 2% of the space, and so for us, particularly coming in this way, it gives us an opportunity to kind of make change and enter the business at scale to be able to come in with a three state footprint and be able to use that as a platform to help change the cannabis ecosystem to make sure to use our platform to enable black and brown people to participate in the industry in a number of different ways. To be able to use our voice, to be able to help shape the way regulators and lawmakers think about how cannabis needs to be developed going forward, and continue to do what we do at our core, which is bring our audience, great quality product for them to enjoy.
[00:17:46] Dan Runcie: That makes sense. And I do think that those stats you mentioned are just around the 2% of the business, that is only being, again, like I said, at this point, currently run and administered by black people. And that’s in America, right?
[00:18:00] Tarik Brooks: In America in the US. It is gonna continue to be a leader in global cannabis. So a lot of countries look to see, you know, what the US is doing and how they’re thinking about deregulation and how they shape their rules. And, for us it’s a big part of what we do is helping people to see how the way things are set up negatively impacts our community. So when you look at, you know, the cannabis industry broadly working to change the way cannabis is scheduled by the federal government and how it’s treated by the federal government and how banks are able to interact with cannabis companies. All of those things make it hard for the industry broadly, but it makes it extra hard for us because when you look at industries without those, We don’t get the same access to capital, we don’t get the same access to opportunities. So it’s one of those things where, you know, once again, we’re starting from behind the eight ball, but what our, you know, perspective allows us to do is start from a different vantage point, right? Like it is an extremely difficult time to raise money in cannabis. And so for us to be able to pull off something, this big speech. You know, the success and track record that Puff has had building quality grants, building quality companies, and being able to find the kinda talent you need to come in and create value. And so we’re excited man. We think this is gonna be a huge event for the cannabis industry. We think it’s gonna be a huge event for us to help our community create meaningful wealth. Cause ultimately, you know, as business people, we wanna use our skills and resources create wealth for our community.
[00:19:36] Dan Runcie: Yeah. And like you said, definitely, you know, huge undertaking and make this happen. Can you talk a little bit more about some of the steps to get from the first idea, maybe it’s you and Puff talking about, Hey, you know, we should do this, we should get into this business. Then boom, the announcement comes. Like, what were some of the steps to help make this happen?
[00:19:53] Tarik Brooks: So we have been exploring the cannabis industry, you know, with different levels of intensity since looking at opportunities. Starting to understand how the industry works, getting closer and closer to the space, you know, building relationships with entrepreneurs and companies in the space to kinda understand how things develop. I joined the board of Cresco Labs, you know, one cause I wanted to learn more about the industry. I thought they were a great company. But two, from that vantage point, you were able to see how the industry works and how things develop. And so when this opportunity came along, which was really driven by Acquisition of Columbia Care by Cresco. They, by regulation, have to divest assets. This opportunity to look at a portfolio of assets that are good, you know, good, strong businesses. Generating revenue, generating cash flow today to be able to come, bring those into our portfolio and then do what we do to create meaningful brands around those assets seem like a phenomenal opportunity. And so, look, these things take time to develop and it’s a long process of, you know, doing the due diligence, raising the capital, going through all the steps you have to do to actually close a deal. But we believe it’s gonna be a phenomenal historic deal once it’s closed and wherever operated. And we think, like, look, when you look at pub’s track record of building brands in music, in fashion, in spirits, you know, should extend, we believe it’s gonna extend itself to cannabis and meaningful given how influential and impactful cannabis is in culture.
[00:21:28] Dan Runcie: And we definitely know that there are a lot of regulatory challenges in this space for sure. And I also know that there are several other celebrity investors, even some in hip hop that have started businesses in this space and haven’t necessarily been able to help take them to the next level. Do you have thoughts about some of those, I guess how business now moving forward can help address and overcome some of those hurdles that maybe some others weren’t quite able to get past.
[00:21:58] Tarik Brooks: Yeah, so I take those in pieces. What I would say is, you know, we believe over the long term, the federal view on cannabis will change. We believe cannabis will ultimately, eventually be legal, you know, throughout the United States and in all 50 States. But we don’t know when that’s gonna happen. And so none of our investment thesis, none of our modeling, none of our business case was built on imminent regulatory relief. And so while, you know, we hope for it and we wanna help shape how lawmakers think about it the same way the rest of the issue does. Nothing in our core premise for doing this deal was built on the expectation of regulatory relief this year, next year, five years from now. Right. So that’s the one thing I would do. That said, we wanna be immediately a part of the conversation cause cannabis is so connected to our community. And so we’re gonna jump into that conversation at the state level. We’re gonna jump into that conversation at the national level. Now going to the second part of your question. You know, one of the things I think is the biggest, you know, misnomer when people think about, you know, Sean comes entering cannabis, is thinking about this as a celebrity cannabis deal, right?
When I think about this and when Puff and I have always talked about it. What we think about. A guy with an amazing track record of building culturally relevant brands. Is that relevant in cannabis? Yes. Check, right. You know, does he have resources and the platform to be able to raise the capital to do a deal like this. Check. Does he have the ability to attract the kind of talent you need? Check right. Now. You also then say, is this celebrity extremely valuable in getting the word out? Brilliant. Absolutely. But that’s not the core premise of what we’re trying to do, right? Like we will get as much value through all the things we can learn throughout our ecosystem and how our customers and all of our other businesses think about. As we’ll get from Sean Holmes, the celebrity. Right? And so from that perspective, you know, we don’t expect to have our business be a celebrity driven brand per se. It’s gonna be built on the back of great brand building, great marketing, and very strategic and efficient operations.
[00:24:07] Dan Runcie: And I think that ties into something you had said in a recent interview about how insights from Revolt, for instance, can inform some of the decisions that you make with the cannabis business.
[00:24:18] Tarik Brooks: Yeah. I mean, look, when you think about an ecosystem like ours that spans from spirits, music, media, fashion, with every interaction with our audience, you create. So every time posts go up from their social media, you know, there’s data that comes back. Every Ciroc transaction generates data when Revolt has shows on all the different platforms that has shows on cable, YouTube, In app, all those different platforms generate data. As you compile that data, you’re able to kinda look at it with a different lens and pull insights from that. What we’re then able to do is take the data that we get from the cannabis industry that everybody else in cannabis is getting. But when you start putting those things together in unique ways, that’s how you start to generate interesting insights that everybody’s just not gonna have access to ’em. So that’s where we think, again, we have a real competitive advantage in how we think about what we do in the space. That’ll impact everything from, you know, how our stores look and feel, and what that experience will be what products we lead with how we think about price points, how we change things from state to state. A lot of that will be driven by insights that not only come from the cannabis industry, but that are informed by the other businesses in our portfolio as well.
[00:25:32] Dan Runcie: And this steps into, I think, a broader conversation of some of the categorization of someone like Puff and the work that he does in that the media can often put him alongside other people who have happened to be a recording artist on a track and compare their business ventures in the same way. And what you’re essentially saying is, You can’t compare us all the same way. Did they build a revolt?
[00:26:01] Tarik Brooks: It’s so hard cause it’s like, I don’t wanna deny how impactful he is as an entertainer. Epic performances. When you think about, and not just performances in music, performances in movies, performances on Broadway. Like the guy is quintessential, entertaining. You know, by all means, like you can’t argue that. But I think when you try to look at him narrowly as just that you are really missing the picture. Cause I think that underestimates or understates, how difficult, it’s to build a bad boy into a success, to build a success, build a revolt, to build us rock, to build a Deleon, to build three schools, like that, that’s not just on the back of him. An amazing entertainer, right? Like that speaks to his business instincts, his ability to spot trends, his ability to kinda find and cultivate talent, like those are all things that are universal in business. Leave aside what he’s been able to do as an entertainer, I would argue, had he never got on the mic or touched the stage, he would’ve been just that successful business person just on the back. His business, you know, acumen and abilities. And so that’s where, when we’re in these conversations and people think about, you know, in cannabis this came up recently, people say like, well, you know, celebrity brands haven’t really worked. And I’m like, lemme take a second to help you understand why this is different from a celebrity brand opportunity. The other thing that’s different that I think is important for people to understand is when we take control of these assets, we’ll be fully vertically integrated in the States that we operate, which, we are gonna cultivate, we are a process. We are gonna manufacture, we’re gonna distribute, we’re gonna sell. So these are all pieces of the business value chain that we’ll operate. Again, not so relevant from the celebrity space. This is all around how do you build and run high quality businesses? And that’s where I think you have to look at our business portfolio to understand how impactful Puff is throughout his career. And you just don’t see those things that the only lens you’re looking at is through him as the celebrity.
[00:28:10] Dan Runcie: I could see this topic also coming up in some ways, potentially from an investment perspective, where you all have companies that are trying to either get you to invest or you’re evaluating them and at some point someone on the other side of the table may come to you and be like, Hey, well if you invest in us, can we get a shout out in a song? Can we get an Instagram post? Can we do this? Like these things that view Puff as the influencer as opposed to the business leader that has all of these things.
[00:28:39] Tarik Brooks: Yeah. What I found just in my experience and I’ve been working with Puff almost six years now. Most of it typically comes with how people were introduced to them and the depth or lack thereof of their understanding of what he’s been able to do throughout his career. There’s a lot of stuff, you know, people just don’t necessarily, you know, attribute to him in the way they should. So usually that journey is one where it’s about informing people to say things like, let’s make sure you have all the perspective and then think about kinda how this can make sense. Cause again, there’s no denying his impact and influence as a celebrity. He’s huge. Like, he’s a big name, he’s an iconic person in culture. But I think to only think about him that way now, I think when people start to understand, you know, what working with Combs Enterprises means more broadly, you start to understand the power of the platform that we really have. And that’s where I think it gets really exciting for the people.
[00:29:35] Dan Runcie: Yeah, I agree. That makes sense. From an investment perspective specifically though, do you feel like, is that something that often needs to be addressed with startups or with founders or others that may be whether deep down they may be looking for something and I’m more so asking that in a way because I’ve seen it happen to others and given this conversation, I can see that especially being somewhat frustrating where it’s like, Hey, I hope you’re not just interested in this to think you’re gonna get a shout out.
[00:30:03] Tarik Brooks: Yeah. I mean, so look, I’ll tell you when we are evaluating investment opportunities and people are looking at ideals, I don’t think that is a thing that people are using as their primary driver. Do I think there are people who will be like nice to have, do they hope to get to meet them? Do they hope to get all those? Sure. Right. Like, again, all ’em, all those kinds of things. But I think when we get, you know, evaluating real deals. I think one thing that surprises people is the rigor with which we do our due diligence and our analysis, right? And so that’s the first thing you see to say like, well this is not just, you know, high level celebrity thing. This is being looked at with real deep due diligence and real deep analysis. And I think from there it starts to shake away that kinda filter of, oh, oh, I’m gonna try to just get a celebrity deal done. Cause it’s just not the way we do business. And I think people get that.
[00:31:02] Dan Runcie: Right. Yeah. Leslie. Yeah. Especially if there’s a due diligence process that they’re seeing on their side. And maybe we could talk a little bit more about that, like from a high level, for a lot of the investments you do, maybe less like the cannabis deals, but more on the venture side, do you have a particular sweet spot in terms of, you know, this is normally the dollar amount range, or this is normally what we put in, or this is normally what we are looking for?
[00:31:26] Tarik Brooks: So, we have, you know, flexibility, right? We’re not a fund that has to, you know, stick to a certain sector or a certain stage of growth the way, you know, funds are typically mandated to do so. We do have flexibility, but that said, going back to the earlier comment I was making, we tend to look at businesses where we see some application. At places within our current portfolio. Right? So like, I don’t know that you’ll ever see us do like, you know, some like heavy machinery deals or you know, enterprise software, things like that. Cause that’s not natural, when you look at interface with the businesses we operate in, it becomes a lot more interesting for us. And so while we apply, you know, the very standard kinda ways of assessing, you know, the quality of the leadership team, the uniqueness of the opportunity, how opportunity is the total addressable market opportunity. Ultimately, we look at all those things just like every other, you know, person who investigates an opportunity. I think where it gets unique is for us, once we’ve gone through all that, we then sit back and say, okay, you know, how many of our businesses could actually utilize this offering? You know, how many different places do we think we can use this throughout our portfolio? And then it starts to become even more interesting. So, that’s kinda how we get there. Now, to be clear, like we don’t have a hard mandate or a set of funds. We have to put the work in the way the fund does, and so we tend to be very, very opportunistic. We pick what we do very carefully to be investing. So as we see economic conditions change as we see market conditions. We’re able to just say like, all right, let’s take a step back. Let’s wait and see how things play out. And I think that helped. I mean, it helped us avoid, you know, some of the frustrations some folks are seeing in the web and cryptocurrency world. Cause we weren’t forced to go aggressively and do something too fast. We saw the market was evolving and so we were able to take a step back, and continue to evaluate it. So from that perspective, there’s a lot of flex.
[00:33:35] Dan Runcie: Yeah, that makes sense, especially given that, yeah, there’s no fun mandates though. It’s not like you’re burned because there’s a winter or something like that.
[00:33:44] Tarik Brooks: Absolutely, and the reality is we’re always investing in our core portfolio as well, right? So we think about whether we wanna put millions into, you know, a startup passively. Part of the kinda analysis is to know where we could deploy in our current portfolio and does that make more sense? Right? And so there’s that kinda flow of how we think about deals as well.
[00:34:07] Dan Runcie: Yeah, that makes sense. A couple months ago, there were headlines that Puff had apparently done an investment in Twitter around the time that Elon Musk had. Was that actually a thing, or did that come through or?
[00:34:21] Tarik Brooks: Look, so like Puff and Elon like have a relationship.You know, Twitter is a very interesting situation in that when you look at, you know, the side like Twitter’s impact in society is certainly bigger than how it shows up from. You know, profit and loss and from a market cap perspective, and when you look at, you know, where Twitter is trading today is trading at a fraction of where like a Facebook or even like a Snapchat is I think, at this point. And so the question becomes, you know, from an investment perspective, like do you think, you know, with some changes you could create meaningful value in Twitter, that platform. And so I think while you know, the kind of, the kind of statements in the press were overstated. There was a small investment in Twitter, but it’s nothing. People get pieces of information and run, so we just, you know, we gotta sit back.
[00:35:17] Dan Runcie: Yeah. And I think the way you framed it is correct. Right? I think it’s definitely one of the 40 billion companies that creates more headlines than most other 44 billion companies we could probably even think of.
[00:35:29] Tarik Brooks: Absolutely. Absolutely. So, like with some decisions to be a much more viable company than today and the verdict’s still out, like those changes happen in real time and cause of how, you know, big the platform is in society. You know, you’re seeing those things play out in the press and, you know, I’m sure Elon’s campus is trying to work as methodically as they can through those changes. As they figure out what is the right, you know, kind end state for, for that platform.
[00:36:00] Dan Runcie: Yeah, definitely. The other side of the investment piece, of course, I think we talked a lot about Combs Enterprise point Capital, but on the other side of it too, thinking specifically about everything happening in music catalogs over the past couple of years, everyone wants these valuable catalogs with this timeless music. Combs has one of the most valuable hip hop, r&b black music catalogs of the past 30 years with Bad Boy Records. There hasn’t been any public news about any sales, but I am sure that people must have been calling nonstop trying to at least see what they could get in there. What were those conversations like? I’m sure at some point it must have come up of Rick, whether it’s running the bum numbers or even thinking through like, what would this look like?
[00:36:45] Tarik Brooks: Yeah. Well look, I think as you know, like part of the interest in these catalogs is driven by the fact that, you know, the returns they generate aren’t really correlated to the market, right? Like they’re like if you have, you know, a high quality performing catalog, it’s gonna generate returns and generate cash flow irrespective of the ups and downs of the markets. And so that’s attractive to investors. That said, for those same reasons, it’s attractive to us, right? Like it is a great quality, high performing catalog. And for us, part of how, you know, we think about things, we think about like Puff’s long-term vision, right? Like we’re getting back into how he’s getting back into music now with Love Records. You know, he’s gonna build that platform in the way that makes sense as you think about the way culture and the music industry continues to evolve. And for us, we’re in no rush to get rid of a portfolio that could be a part of that. Like who knows how you think about those assets in the future. And so for us, we’re spending a lot of time thinking about what the future of music is gonna look like. And you know how Puff is gonna participate in that, what that looks like. And so for us, you know, again, you don’t have, you know, some of the time constraints that you get from being they’re public company or you know, money at a certain time. So we had the benefit of being able to go slow and kinda take our time and basically run experiments at our own pace to figure out what we wanna do. And so from that perspective, people have, you know, continually come through with offers and with opportunities and things. And we’ve purposely taken our time as we’ve about what, you know, Puff’s experience of music is gonna be over the next, you know, next years as he climbs when he talks about it’s his second, right? Like he’s at the point of his career where he’s accomplished and he’s thinking about what that second looks like. Music has always been a very important part of his life, and so music is gonna be a part of that. Second, we’re shaping what that looks like. And so from our perspective, there was no reason to move.
[00:38:46] Dan Runcie: That makes a lot of sense and I think for you, there’s two things that are different with you all compared to some of the others. Two of them you touched on, but one of them is that you already have the infrastructure in place on how to do things that can help maximize the asset of the Bad Boy Records catalog. It isn’t like one of these situations like where the Whitney Houston catalog, like it was dormant before Primary Wave came in and obviously they’ve like, you know, forseed it since they acquired it three years ago. And it isn’t like one of these other legacy artists that, you know, the estate may be in shambles and things just aren’t lined up. And yeah, for them it probably makes sense to just get a lump sum of money and be able to distribute that instead of hoping that your relatives who may not be trained in managing this type of asset can’t continue doing it forward. Like you all have that. And I think that’s part of it.
[00:39:37] Tarik Brooks: Yeah. And I think there’s a couple ways to think about it too, right? Like, cause these artists work so hard to create these assets. You know, why sell ’em? Why get rid of them? But I think there’s a couple ways you can think about. You can say one, alright, we may be at peak pricing. And so it’s like, you know what, lemme sell while things are hot. You know, take the cash, be able to take the money off the table and invest other ways. You also, particularly with younger artists to say, all right, I’ll sell this catalog, but if I’m still creating, I can continue to create and you know, build new works that will create value as well. And so I think there’s different logic for different artists in terms of, you know, why they think about selling and why they sell when they do that, you know, in some respect make, particularly if you’re looking at it from a purely financial perspective. But again, we were unique in the way that we have an ecosystem that helps continue to keep catalog relevant. We’re back in music now, and so again, that also helps to create the halo effect across all of our ecosystems. And so for us, there just really isn’t a rush to move too quickly, like where we can think about what is the kinda value maximizing way to utilize the catalog and whatever else we’re doing to create the best outcomes.
[00:40:54] Dan Runcie: Right. I think that’s a good way to put it too, like you said, numbers are there and if you wanna sell, there are sound financial reasons that someone may choose to do so for you all, and given Puff’s current goals in music, it just may not make the most sense, but with that though, shifting gears a bit, one business we haven’t talked a lot about is Sean John and I know this is a business that the team had sold a couple years back. The company that bought it. Things didn’t quite work out there. You all then bought it back recently. So where are things right now with Sean John?
[00:41:32] Tarik Brooks: Yeah, Sean John is super exciting, right? So you first start with an iconic, you know, street brand, right? You know, this is again another example. Being able to see where fashion was going, seeing how, you know, folks in our community were wearing other brands to get particular silhouettes and have it, you know, look a certain way and feel a certain way, and then be able to build a brand. That became a real like a foundational piece of, you know, hip hop culture. And through that process, Puff was the first African American man to win the CFA award, which is the biggest award you can win in fashion, right? So truly iconic sold the brand. The buyers at the time weren’t able to figure out how to maximize it, so they created the opportunity for us to buy back. And so what we’re excited to do now, and we’re in this process with Puff of really reimagining what can and should be for this generation, right? Like as much as you know, we all love the iconic valore sweatsuits and all rest it like, maybe that’s a part of the future. Maybe it’s a different brand position, different way, but like spending time. Actually really ideate on that and get to the right concept to bring it back again. We have the benefit cause, you know, we operate this portfolio, we don’t have the pressure to rush. Like we don’t have to, you know, do something right away to be able to, you know, capture that value overnight. You know, we have the luxury of being able to take our time and what I found with Puff is he likes to be able to, one, work with the quality people he possibly can and really run ideas through the ringer in terms of, you know, having people question his logic, test the thinking. Really, really pressure test to see if it’s the right way before we do something. So what I can say is, right now in the lab, like, you know, there’s creative folks that are thinking through, you know, what Sean John could be and should be and isn’t engaged in that process. And so it’s exciting I think when we do hit on the market, we’re gonna come back in a way that one pays homage to the legacy of John, but then isn’t just caught in what to be, is really thinking about what the brand could mean and should mean to, you know, new generations.
[00:43:41] Dan Runcie: Yeah, that makes sense. And I feel like when it happened too, it definitely generated some excitement. So I feel like there’s some good momentum.
[00:43:47] Tarik Brooks: Yeah, I think a lot of the folks who are dominating the fashion world now, were inspired, you know, by, you know, fans. So the fact that it’s a brand is still, you know, relevant to people in different ways, gives us a great building. Like, I would rather be trying to kinda help people connect to this brand with so much history and legacy than trying to build a brand from scratch. You know? I think it provides a good foundation. Like’s aspiration is to build iconic, long-lasting brands. So when you think about iconic brands that have been around for 55, you know, longer periods of time, that’s what the goal is. And so, and those brands have gone through research, you know, any iconic brands gone off, of kinda laws and growth. And so for us, this is just really, you know, the second chapter of something that’s gonna, you know, be a part of our community and our culture for years ago.
[00:44:45] Dan Runcie: Yeah, for sure. And for you specifically, if we zoom out a bit, looking at the past six years since you’ve been there, we definitely talked a lot about wins, a lot of the successes. But are there any setbacks or are there any missed opportunities that you look back on, especially the past six years since you’ve been there being like, oh, I wonder if we did this differently with this brand. I wonder if we did that differently?
[00:45:07] Tarik Brooks: Yeah, I think for us, one of the things I appreciate about Puff and it’s a value that we both share, which you know, you look at everything as like a learning opportunity to say like maybe the outcome didn’t go your way, but there was plenty of stuff you could learn from if you embrace the opportunity the right way. So like I look at the fact that it was back in was announced as an opportunity. We saw the value of the team and the value of the assets all around. You thought it was a great opportunity, pursued it. You know, the group that we were part of didn’t win, but through that process, learned a ton about that space. You know, I met great people, you know, business partners and relationships that we still engaged with in different things today all came from that opportunity. So like, you know, while, look, I would’ve loved to be able to win that deal or bring that home, you know, I think there’s a lot that comes from it. It sets us up for the things we do, you know, when I think about, David, we talked about the Revolt Summit earlier, right? Like, you know, as we were building the Revolt Summit, you know, we bring it back after, I think a year off. And then in 2020 the pandemic hit. So we gotta basically shut it down and go virtual. But like coming outta those were things we learned about how we’re gonna in the future. So this year, you know, the biggest Revolt Summit ever, how’s Metaverse versus online? Like all those things coming around. Again, learnings that you utilize going forward. And so, you know, whether it’s you thinking through every single flavor in the portfolio or every single bab in the artist roster, even the ones that don’t work out the way, you know, you want them to work out their stuff. You can learn from that help, impact and help you to be better as you move forward. That’s the way we think. You know, and I talk all the time about just, you know, transparently looking at the things that go right and go wrong and making sure we’re learning.
[00:47:05] Dan Runcie: Can we actually talk a little bit about the Carolina Panthers one specifically? Because I know you all said that you didn’t win the bid, but was it an aspect of being outbid or the owners or someone just choosing someone different? Like how did that all go down? Cause I remember the headlines about it. I remember that there were a few other prominent black public figures that were in that ownership group too.
[00:47:27] Tarik Brooks: Yeah, I mean, look, what I would say is, you know, the person that you know ended up winning the bid, I believe, if I remember correctly, had, you know, the highest bid relationship. I think from that perspective, he kinda knew the league, well, and, and was prepared in a number of different ways to be able to take it down. And I would just say the group that we were part of kinda fell short in that way. But what’s interesting is, you know, the number, and I just can’t remember real time, the exact number he ended up paying for. When you look at the number that people think that the Washington Commanders are gonna command, and the number that the Denver Barcos commanded. You know, while that number he paid was high at the time, you know, it’s not even half what somebody might pay for the Washington Commanders. And so perspective, you’re willing to pay for something. You gotta live with the fact that there’s just maybe willing to pay more for it than you. Right. And so, you know, we ended up being a part of a really sharp group that, you know, had thought really hard about, you know, what was in this case. You know, we rounded. So, you know, again, it’s one of those things you learn from, right? Like, you know, sports, entertainment, and business is very unique. You know, assets, you know, come available at different points in time. It’s all about thinking about, you know, what do you think the asset is worth? What do you think you can do with it, you know, to translate to what you think it should be worth. And somewhere in that analysis you get to what you think you should pay for, right? And that’s where you kinda make your move. And in that case, you know that there were just folks willing to pay for.
[00:49:12] Dan Runcie: Yeah, no, I think that’s a good point too. Cause I feel like I might be misquoting, but I feel like the Panther’s bid was somewhere, I think it was under 3 billion at least.
[00:49:20] Tarik Brooks: Yeah, I believe you’re right. I wanna be careful. I just don’t remember exactly. But yeah, I remember it being less than 3 billion and I think the number they’re saying for Washington Commanders now, like 7 billion and so I imagine, you know, like when you think about where the value of that Panthers is going, probably going. They probably did really well. So I mean, again, and we believed it was gonna do well and continue to do well. I mean, when you look at the size of the deal, I guess Google or YouTube just did it with the NFL. The NFL is a platform, right? When you look at, at least for the last couple years, I haven’t seen 2022. When you look at the list of the top 50 watched things on television every year, 40 plus of them are football games. Right? Right. It’s just that powerful of an entertainment platform, so therefore commands the prices of command.
[00:50:12] Dan Runcie: Yeah. Well, hopefully. Whether it’s this group or some combination of others that we know we’re interested in. Hopefully we see something happen soon in the sports ownership space. But this was great. I know we covered a bunch of topics in this one, and before we let you go though, is there anything that you didn’t cover that the audience should stay looking out for or that we should be thinking about moving forward?
[00:50:34] Tarik Brooks: Yeah, I think 23 is a year that the audience should look out for a lot from, from the Combs organization. You know, music out of Love Records, including album and power, global e-commerce platform. Kinda reimagining how, you know, black people circulate dollars in our community. You know, the cannabis venture closing and beginning to build brands and establish meaningful footprints in the markets that it’s in. There’s just a lot of new things in 23, so there will be a lot coming outta our camp that we’re super excited about, and so it’s gonna be big.
[00:51:08] Dan Runcie: We’ll keep our lookout for that, man. All right. Appreciate you spending the time, man.
[00:51:12] Tarik Brooks: Thanks so much, man.Take care.
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