In response to comments Adidas CEO Bjørn Gulden made about Ye (also known as Kanye West) on the “In Good Company” podcast last week, Adidas said it has not changed its opinion on the celebrity.
“Our position has not changed, ending the partnership was appropriate,” an Adidas spokesperson told Retail Dive.
The retailer cut off its partnership with Ye in 2022 after a series of antisemitic comments. Gulden was asked what happened with the partnership, which ended before he arrived at Adidas, on a podcast from Norges Bank Investment Management.
“I think Kanye West is one of the most creative people in the world. Both in music and in what I would call street culture. He’s extremely creative and has, together with [Adidas], created a Yeezy line which was very successful. And then, as creative people, he did some statements which wasn’t that good and that caused [Adidas] to break the contract and [indiscernible] the product,” Gulden said. “Very unfortunate because I don’t think he meant what he said, and I don’t think he’s a bad person, it just came across that way. And that meant we lost that business — one of the most successful collabs in history. Very sad, but again — when you work with third parties, that could happen. It’s part of the game. That can happen with an athlete, it can happen with an entertainer. It’s part of the business.”
Gulden has previously taken a stance against Ye’s behavior, saying in May that “there is no place in sport or society for hate of any kind and we remain committed to fighting against it.”
Adidas, which contemplated what to do with its leftover Yeezy inventory for months, ultimately decided to sell it and donate a “significant amount” of proceeds to organizations that combat discrimination, hate, racism and antisemitism. While before Gulden’s arrival, the retailer had considered selling Yeezy designs without the brand name attached to them, the executive shot down that idea in August.
“The Yeezy product is something that he created, he’s the inventor of it and we have been his partner. To take his designs and sell them off later, which we technically legally could do, is not part of our strategy,” Gulden said at the time. “Our task now is to limit the damage, get rid of the inventory, use the proceeds to good … and build a business later without Yeezy.”
Outside of its challenged partnership with Ye, Adidas has been struggling in other ways. The retailer’s net sales have grown by less than $5 billion since 2013, and rival Nike has surged ever further ahead.