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Diageo responds to allegations by Hollis Worth

Diageo has responded to what it calls “false statements and inferences” made by former brand ambassador Hollis B Worth about the firm following allegations of abuse against her father, Tom Bulleit.

Hollis Worth worked as a brand ambassador for Bulleit Bourbon over a number of years

Worth took to Facebook last week to accuse her father, Bulleit Bourbon founder Tom Bulleit, of physically and sexually abusing her as a minor – claims he “strenuously denies”. Worth, who identifies as gay, had also previously accused Bulleit of espousing homophobic views.

In the post, Worth said she now suffers from complex post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the violence she allegedly experienced. Furthermore, she said: “Diageo knows all of this and has continued to back this man.”

Her post continued: “This cycle of abuse must stop. Diageo needs to stop backing a criminal. Tom needs to stop stealing my life from me. It is time for the liquor industry to be under the microscope as part of the national #metoo & #timesup discussions.

“I am the daughter of a powerful narcissistic abusive man who helped to create a culture of continued abuse (sexual, physical, mental) with his unlimited access to all three tiers of the liquor industry.”

Worth added that the alleged “cycle of abuse” she experienced “was safeguarded, upheld, and encouraged by a global multi-billion dollar corporation”. She said Diageo had not responded to her allegations beginning in June this year, and that she would “push” for court proceedings in Florida.

In 2016, Worth’s brand ambassador contract with came to an end and after lengthy negotiations, her role was not renewed. The breakup was messy and Worth has since expressed scathing opinions about Diageo, accusing the multinational of discrimination.

Diageo has said Worth’s statements about the firm have “been shown to be untrue”. In a recent statement, the distiller confirmed that Tom Bulleit had stepped down as a brand ambassador for the company in light of the allegations against him.

The spokesperson said: “Diageo learned of claims of abuse, directed at her father, through a recent letter from Ms Worth’s (née Bulleit) attorney. These claims had not been previously brought to Diageo’s attention by Ms Worth or anyone else. While it would be impossible for us to determine the veracity of these claims, given their nature it was decided Mr Bulleit would step back from his brand ambassadorship role. Mr Bulleit strenuously denies his daughter’s claims.

“We continue to be deeply disappointed by Hollis Worth’s false statements and inferences about Diageo, many of which have been shown to be untrue.

“When Ms Worth’s last brand ambassador contract was set to expire at the end of 2016, we worked to extend her role, but ultimately, we were unable to come to terms on her future involvement with the brand.

“Diageo’s long track record demonstrates the depth of our dedication to creating a culture that supports inclusivity and does not discriminate on any basis, including sexual orientation. Our Bulleit brand stands for the same values and ethics. Indeed, we were aware of Ms Worth’s LGBTIQIA+ identity for some 10 years.”

Bulleit Bourbon, one of Diageo’s high-end ‘Reserve’ brands, registered an organic sales increase of 7% in 2018/19. The brand recently completed a US$10 million upgrade of its visitor centre in Kentucky. Its US$115m distillery opened in 2018.

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