At 35, Sean "P. Diddy" Combs has already made his mark as a hip-hop musician, Broadway actor, marathon runner, fashion designer, celebrity boyfriend, gossip column favorite, voter registration booster and all-around entertainment entrepreneur.
Now, the former Puff Daddy is going into the auto parts business — and it's all about the wheels.
Combs is joining forces with a Kansas City manufacturer to produce a new line of custom, precision-forged aluminum rims for sports trucks, luxury SUVs and high-end American- and German-made automobiles.
The 50-50 joint venture between Combs' Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment Group and Kansas City's Weld Wheel Industries Inc. was announced Thursday at the New York International Auto Show. SJC Wheels LLC will produce and sell "Sean John Wheels," named for the entertainer. They hit stores next month, retailing at between $700 and $3,000 each.
"Wheels have become a fashion statement — a badge of taste and style," Combs said. "We see an opportunity to bring excitement to the wheel category by delivering the Sean John sophisticated design with the best quality production."
Partner Greg Weld, the founding president and chief executive of Weld Wheel, said Combs had told him he'd show him how to "bring some sexy" to the wheel business.
Weld, a 61-year-old former auto racing driver who started his wheel manufacturing business in 1970, was a little overwhelmed at the attention attracted by his new partner, marveling at his ability to work a crowd and "build his brand."
"He is an icon in the urban market and the urban market is huge, the single biggest segment of wheel business," Weld said. "But we did not know how to tap into that market. Having a personality or high-profile person is a little like Nike getting together with Michael Jordan. It increases recognition."
"In the urban market, they call it 'bling-bling' which means showy, shiny and 'Look at me, I have a lot of bling,'" he said. "The way we've designed spokes, holes, the features, it looks like it is aggressively moving when it's not even moving."