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Adidas CEO Bjørn Gulden Expresses Regret Over Kanye West Split Amid Doubts on Antisemitic Remarks

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Kanye West and Bjørn Gulden

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Adidas CEO Bjørn Gulden said he doubts Ye, previously Kanye West, “meant what he said” last year when he made a string of antisemitic and other harsh remarks. Adidas cancelled a key deal with Ye about a year ago due to his words, discontinued Ye’s line of Yeezy shoes, and accelerated its CEO’s planned exit. The corporation stated at the time that it “does not tolerate antisemitism or any other form of hate speech.” “Ye’s recent comments and actions have been unacceptable, hateful, and dangerous,” the statement said, “and they violate the company’s values of diversity and inclusion, mutual respect, and fairness.” Gulden’s tone changed on the investment podcast “In Good Company.” “I believe Kanye West is one of the most imaginative individuals in the world,” Bjørn Gulden remarked in a Sept 12 broadcast.

“It’s a shame, because I don’t believe he meant what he said, and I don’t think he’s a bad person.” That’s exactly how it came across.” Gulden did not go into detail in the interview. He was appointed CEO in January of this year. An Adidas spokeswoman stated that the company’s attitude has not changed and that the decision to cancel the association with Ye was acceptable. Ye had made antisemitic comments in interviews and on social media for weeks prior to his split with the sneaker company, which included an October Twitter post whereby he said he would soon go “death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE,” which seemed to be a reference to the US defence readiness condition scale known as DEFCON.


Adidas CEO Discusses Kanye West Following the Yeezy Fallout: ‘I Don’t Believe He Intended What He Said’

Adidas’ once-glorious partnership with Kanye West soured, then became legal, and unfolded as a massive nightmare when the musician made antisemitic comments on social media and in interviews. Nearly a year after the German sportswear brand severed ties with Ye, its CEO expresses no resentment. In a recent podcast, Bjørn Gulden, the Norwegian CEO of Adidas, discussed West and the backstory to that very public dispute. “I believe Kanye West is one of the finest artistic people in the world, both in music and in what I call street culture,” Bjørn Gulden remarked, noting that Kanye’s relationship with Adidas predated his own election to the top role on January 1, 2023. He’s quite inventive.” And together, they launched the Yeezy trainers line, which was “extremely successful.” Putting innovation aside, Gulden continued, Ye “made some statements that weren’t that good.” “As a result, (Adidas) breached the contract and withdrew the product.” Unfortunately, I don’t believe he meant what he said, and I don’t believe he’s a nasty person; it simply came out that way.”

Bjørn Gulden added in an interview with Nicolai Tangen, CEO of Norges Bank Investment Management, for the In Good Company podcast that Ye’s comments “meant we lost that business, one of the most successful collaborations in history.” It’s a pity. However, when working with third parties, this is possible. It’s all a part of the game. That can happen to an athlete or entertainer. It’s part of the job.” Adidas severed ties with Ye in October of last year, sparking concerns about the fate of 1.2 billion euros ($1.3 billion) in unsold Yeezys. Gulden announced at Adidas’ annual shareholders meeting in May that Adidas would try to sell some of the leftover Yeezy inventory and “donate money to the organisations that help us and were harmed by what Ye said.” Adidas suffered a setback when it severed ties with Ye. The separation amounted to a sales loss of 600 million euros ($655 million) in the final three months of 2022, contributing to the company’s quarterly net loss of 513 million euros. At the start of 2023, Adidas recorded a loss of 400 million euros ($441 million). Gulden, formerly the CEO of rival shoe specialist Puma, took over for Kasper Rorsted, who led Adidas from 2016 until his resignation in November 2022.


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