Adidas snatches Puma boss for struggling brand after Ye fallout

Bjorn Gulden takes over with problems on several fronts and unsold shoes piling up

Adidas ended its partnership with the rapper formerly known as Kanye West over his anti-Semitic remarks. AP
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German sportswear brand Adidas has appointed the boss of rival Puma as its next chief executive as it fights a series of problems, from sales in China to tainted stars.

Bjorn Gulden, a Norwegian former professional football and handball player, will take on the role from January next year, replacing current chief executive Kasper Rorsted, who steps down on Friday, Adidas said.

He “brings almost 30 years of experience in the sporting goods and footwear industry,” said Thomas Rabe, chairman of Adidas’s supervisory board.

Mr Gulden, 57, takes over with problems on several fronts and unsold shoes piling up.

Adidas severed ties with Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, after the singer made a string of offensive and anti-Semitic remarks.

In recent years, “Yeezy” products have accounted for nearly half of the company’s profits, raising questions about how Adidas will maintain the buzz on its other shoes going forward.

Bjorn Gulden was named last week as a potential successor after Puma announced his departure. AFP

Adidas is also struggling to win back customers in China, once its fastest-growing market.

Sales have plunged by at least a third in the first half of 2022, due to consumer boycotts and Adidas’s challenges in signing local celebrities to market its products.

Mr Gulden was named last week as a potential successor after Puma announced his departure. Confirmation of the appointment saw Adidas shares rise by as much as 4.8 per cent.

“As CEO of Puma, he reinvigorated the brand and led the company to record results … Gulden will head Adidas into a new era of strength,” Adidas said.

The company lowered its outlook for 2022 in July.

Adidas ended production of the highly successful “Yeezy” line, a move that would slash the company's net income this year by “up to 250 million euros ($246 million)”.

Both Adidas and Puma are based in the Bavarian town of Herzogenaurach, about 190 kilometres from Munich.

The two companies were founded by two brothers. Adolf Dassler started Adidas in 1949 before his brother and fierce rival Rudolf established Puma.

Mr Gulden worked for Adidas as senior vice president of apparel and accessories from 1992 to 1999. He was also chief executive of Danish jewellery brand Pandora, before becoming Puma's chief executive in 2013.

Before he takes over, Adidas's chief financial officer Harm Ohlmeyer will serve as interim chief executive through the end of the year, the company said.

Updated: November 08, 2022, 3:22 PM
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