Almost a year after Adidas ended its once-lucrative partnership with Kanye West, the company’s CEO, Bjørn Gulden, broke his silence on the matter on Sept. 13. Speaking on the “In Good Company” podcast hosted by Nicolai Tangen, the chief executive shared insights on the controversial split and what transpired behind the scenes.
Having taken the reins at the athletic apparel brand on Jan. 1, Gulden described West as one of the “most creative people in the world” as it related to music and street culture. He further recognized the artist’s pivotal role in creating the Yeezy sneaker line.
Despite the successful collaboration, he acknowledged the necessity of severing ties after Ye made anti-Semitic comments that “wasn’t that good.” The CEO admitted, “That caused [Adidas] to break that contract and withdraw the product. [It’s] 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.”
The fallout cost the footwear label one of the “most successful collabs in history,” which Gulden described as “very sad.” However, he noted that such risks come with working with third parties, whether they are athletes or entertainers, describing it as “part of the business.”
West’s remarks not only ended the historic partnership but also caused a financial hit for Adidas. According to AP News, it contributed to a dip in sales by $655 million in the final quarter of 2022, pushing the company to report a net loss of roughly $551 million in that period.
The negative trajectory continued into 2023 with a reported $441 million in lost sales. Looking ahead, Gulden also revealed plans to sell part of the remaining $1.2 billion worth of unsold Yeezy inventory and to donate a portion of the proceeds to organizations impacted by West’s statements.