LOS ANGELES – Sean "P. Diddy" Combs (search) and Warner Music Group (search) inked a joint venture deal that gives the record company a 50 percent stake in the hip-hop mogul's Bad Boy Records (search) label.
Under the deal announced Thursday, Warner will market and handle digital and physical distribution of Bad Boy's new and catalog releases worldwide.
The label's roster of current and former artists includes Mase, Mario Winans, Notorious B.I.G. and P. Diddy himself.
Financial details of the partnership were not released. Two sources familiar with the deal said Warner paid about $30 million for an agreement that will last at least three years.
Combs, whose entertainment empire also includes music publishing, clothing, restaurants and television ventures, will remain chief executive of New York-based Bad Boy Records.
The deal also marked an early end to Combs' distribution deal with Universal Music Group, which had been set to expire in mid-2006.
Bad Boy's releases in recent years haven't burned up the charts like its offerings in the 1990s. Mase's latest album was a disappointment, while a comeback album by R&B group New Edition languished with sales of just 244,000.
The infusion of cash and other resources from Warner should help Bad Boy reinvigorate its release schedule to about 10 albums a year, Combs told The Associated Press from New York.
"There have been a lot of boutique record labels that come and go, and we're still here," Combs said. "This has ensured for the next couple of years that we have the right financial backing, the right financial structure, the right partners to remain a force in the music industry."
The deal for Bad Boy comes as Warner, the third-largest record company, prepares to go public. Warner was acquired last year for $2.6 billion from Time Warner Inc. by a private investor group led by Edgar Bronfman Jr., now its chairman and chief executive.
A Warner spokesman declined to elaborate on the deal, citing disclosure restrictions in effect as the company approaches its IPO.
In a statement, Bronfman praised Combs and his record label, calling them "an exciting new addition to Warner Music Group."
Bad Boy Records had almost instant success when it began in the early 1990s as a boutique label with Arista Records. Back then, the label generated hits from acts like Notorious B.I.G., Faith Evans and Combs' own solo work.
But the label's sales suffered after B.I.G., whose real name was Christopher Wallace, was killed in 1997 and Combs' popularity started to dip.
Reports surfaced that the label had become a costly venture for Arista.
That partnership ended in 2002, with Combs retaining his artist roster and rights to the Bad Boy catalog. The following year, he signed a distribution deal with Universal Music Group for about $10 million.
Universal didn't fight Combs on his decision to leave early, he said.
Combs intends to release a solo album and another B.I.G. record along with albums by several new acts. He hopes the new offerings will find the same success as earlier albums.
Rapper Mase's 1997 album "Harlem World" sold 3.2 million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. But his two follow-up efforts combined to sell just short of a million copies.
Other Bad Boy albums have also failed to reach the coveted platinum status that comes with sales of a million or more.