Why Jay-Z Created a Champagne Brand: Comments by Cristal Exec ‘Forced Us to Build Our Own Thing'

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On Monday, Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter sold a 50% stake in his Armand de Brignac champagne brand to luxury goods conglomerate LVMH for an undisclosed amount. But Carter didn't initially set out to create his own high end champagne business, or even his entertainment company, Roc Nation.

"It wasn't this plan to build this big media company," he said on CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Monday, referring to Roc Nation, which in 2019 was worth an estimated $75 million. 

"I wanted a record deal and when we couldn't get, we built our own," Carter said

Similarly, Carter got into the champagne game because he thought he had no other choice.

Carter had helped widely popularize the French brand of champagne Cristal in the late '90s and early 2000s by using it in his music videos and name-dropping it in his songs. But in 2006, Frederic Rouzaud, then managing director (now CEO) of the Champagne Louis Roederer winery, which is the maker of Cristal, made comments that Carter considered racist.

When asked by The Economist if an association with rap could hurt Cristal, Rouzaud said: "That's a good question, but what can we do? We can't forbid people from buying it."

Rouzaud later issued a statement saying that the company had "the utmost regard for, and interest in, all forms of art and culture," according to The New York Times. But Carter boycotted the brand.

"[T]hose comments forced us to build our own thing," Carter said on "Squawk Box" Monday.

The same year, Carter featured bottles of Armand de Brignac champagne — known as "Ace of Spades" due to its label — in his "Show me What You Got" music video. Carter also partnered with Armand de Brignac with a 50% stake in the brand (terms of the deal have not been disclosed).

In 2014, Carter bought the remaining stake of Armand de Brignac for an undisclosed amount, making him the first rapper to own outright a champagne label. The brand sold more than 500,000 bottles in 2019, according to CNBC reported.

And today, "yes, today is a happy day and I feel very vindicated," Carter told "Squawk Box" of the LVMH deal.

But America still has a "long way to go towards inclusivity," he says. I'm the "highest ranking African-American owner of a luxury goods product, so there's plenty [of] room to go from here."

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