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Adidas Appoints Ex-Puma Chief Gulden as New CEO From January

Adidas AG is in talks with Bjorn Gulden from crosstown rival Puma SE to become the new chief executive officer
Adidas AG appointed former Puma SE chief executive officer Bjorn Gulden as its next CEO. (Shutterstock)

Adidas AG appointed former Puma SE chief executive officer Bjorn Gulden as its next CEO effective Jan. 1 as the larger German sportswear company seeks to move on from a crisis over its terminated partnership with rapper Ye.

Current Adidas chief Kasper Rorsted will step down Friday and chief financial officer Harm Ohlmeyer will serve as interim CEO through the end of the year, the company said in a statement.

Adidas last week said Gulden was a potential successor to Rorsted after Puma announced its CEO’s departure.

Adidas shares rose as much as 4.8 percent in Frankfurt. The stock is down about 25 percent during Rorsted’s six-year tenure.

Gulden, 57, will inherit a company embroiled in crises on several continents. Adidas recently terminated its Yeezy partnership following a string of offensive and antisemitic remarks from the hip-hop artist and designer formerly known as Kanye West.

That’s raising questions about how Adidas will maintain the buzz around its shoes. Yeezy has accounted for nearly half of the company’s total profits in recent years.

‘Rich Network’

Gulden “knows the industry extremely well and draws on a rich network in sport and retail,” Thomas Rabe, chairman of Adidas’s supervisory board, said in the statement.

Meanwhile, the company is struggling to win back customers in China, once its fastest-growing market. Sales plunged in China 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. Arch rival Nike Inc. has also suffered in China, but appears to have done a better job at winning back some customers.

For Gulden, the change in companies should in some respects be smooth. For one thing, Adidas’s headquarters is located just up the road from that of Puma, on the outskirts of the Bavarian town of Herzogenaurach, a couple hours north of Munich.

For another, Gulden, who hails from Norway, worked for Adidas as senior vice president of apparel and accessories from 1992 to 1999. Gulden was also CEO of Danish jewelry brand Pandora before becoming CEO of Puma in 2013.

By Tim Loh

Learn more:

Inside Adidas’ Yeezy Dilemma

The German sportswear giant’s partnership with Ye generated $1.7 billion in 2021, accounting for nearly 7 percent of its annual revenue. Now that the company has cut ties with the rapper, will it keep selling Yeezy designs?

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