Combative Jay-Z Tells Jury He Didn't Ghost On Perfume Deal

Law360, New York (October 29, 2021, 1:25 PM EDT) -- Jay-Z testified in person at a New York state civil jury trial on Friday to reject allegations that he failed to promote his Gold Jay-Z cologne, claiming the perfumer suing him for $18 million was "mischaracterizing" the facts and did not understand his business.

Jay-Z testifies in person on Friday before a jury at a New York civil trial where he is accused of failing to promote his Gold Jay-Z cologne. (Pool photo/Alex Tabak)

Billionaire hip-hop star Jay-Z, whose legal name is Shawn Carter, repeatedly rebuffed attempts by Parlux Fragrances LLC counsel to frame him as a no-show in their business relationship. He branded the questioning as misleading and said the perfumer was "taking liberties" with the evidence as he lectured the opposing attorney, provoking laughter from the jury on several occasions.

"I've done a lot for the Gold Jay-Z launch," Jay-Z said, pushing back on Parlux counsel Anthony Viola's accusations that he didn't do his three contractually mandated appearances.

Viola pressed Jay-Z on whether he ever showed up for a promotional appearance on "Good Morning America," which Parlux claims he bailed on.

"I didn't have to show up for one weekend," Jay-Z shot back. "I had one year to complete them, correct?"

"Actually, you need to answer my questions," Viola retorted.

Asked if he had read the contract he signed, the billionaire musician repeatedly demurred before ultimately admitting, "No, I did not read the contract."

"I'm not a lawyer. [My] lawyer read it. I signed it," Jay-Z said. "All I can say is I have creative control over things I do."

Jay-Z showed both nonchalance and mild irritation with Viola, once telling the Parlux attorney, "You can't speak to what makes sense." The rapper denied that he had decided not to promote the product at Macy's and had instead decided to sell 100 bottles "at Barney's as a limited edition" before the launch at Macy's.

"It was my direction to have a promotion at Barney's," Jay-Z said. "And that was it. And then the launch was at Macy's."

Responding to an email showing Jay-Z brutally apprising his relationship with Parlux that said, "This is all I want to do great things (although the partners suck so it doesn't feel great)," he explained in court that "even the wins didn't feel good."

"I wanted great products and these guys didn't understand," Jay-Z said. "It was so frustrating working with them."

Jay-Z has been depicted by Parlux as an absentee promoter who "abandoned his partners" and cost the perfume maker millions. The hip-hop icon has countered in legal filings that the perfumer fails to understand that he is a savvy global businessman protecting his personal brand from being sold "on the shelves of Walmart between hand sanitizer and Tic Tacs."

The suit was first filed in January 2016 by Parlux and its parent, Perfumania Holdings Inc., with allegations that Jay-Z and his company S. Carter Enterprises LLC breached his contractual obligations to promote the Gold Jay-Z cologne.

Jay-Z returned fire, claiming that he was still owed more than $2.7 million under the deal.

On several occasions on Friday, Jay-Z appeared to entertain the jury as he talked back to Viola. At one point the rap mogul corrected Viola that he had done a Champagne ad, not a commercial. Responding to a question about how an advertisement could have been printed without his approval, Jay-Z landed a snappy retort.

"Sometimes people do sneaky things behind your back," Jay-Z said, pausing for a beat. "Shall we talk about that?" The jurors broke into laughter.

The plan for a single day of trial testimony from the hip-hop icon quickly went out the window by lunchtime. Viola used much of his time to impeach Jay-Z, who repeatedly demurred on what he remembered as the Parlux attorney sought to undermine his credibility with the jury. Bench conferences ate up additional time.

Jay-Z will return to the stand on Monday morning.

Parlux Fragrances is represented by Anthony J. Viola, Andre K. Cizmarik, Kara M. Cormier and Whitney M. Costin of Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo PC.

Jay-Z and his company are represented by Alex Spiro, Ellyde R. Thompson, Cory D. Struble, Allison L. McGuire and Phillip B. Jobe of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP.

The case is Parlux Fragrances LLC et al. v. S. Carter Enterprises LLC et al., case number 650403/2016, in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of New York.

--Editing by Robert Rudinger and Jay Jackson Jr.

Update: This article has been updated with more details of the trial testimony.

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