Adidas CEO Reflects on Kanye West Collaboration’s Controversial End

Adidas CEO Bjørn Gulden expressed his disappointment over the termination of the company’s highly profitable collaboration with Kanye West, now known as Ye. This decision came after Ye made a series of controversial statements and actions, including wearing a ‘White lives matter’ T-shirt during Paris Fashion Week, praising Adolf Hitler in an extreme right-wing podcast, and facing accusations of inappropriate behavior in the workplace. In October 2022, Adidas officially ended its partnership with Ye, citing his comments as unacceptable and in direct violation of the company’s values, which include promoting diversity, inclusion, mutual respect, and fairness.

The collaboration between Adidas and Ye had been extremely successful, particularly due to the immense popularity of the Yeezy sneakers designed by West. In 2021 alone, this collaboration generated nearly 1.5 billion euros in revenue, accounting for 7 percent of Adidas’s total sales. Even in the second quarter of the following year, Yeezy sneakers continued to generate 400 million euros in sales.

During an interview on the Norwegian podcast ‘In Good Company,’ CEO Bjørn Gulden, who assumed his role after the collaboration ended, shared his thoughts on Ye’s departure. While acknowledging Kanye West’s exceptional creativity and influence in both music and street culture, Gulden also recognized that Ye’s divisive statements and actions ultimately led to the dissolution of the partnership. Despite the sadness over losing one of the most successful collaborations in history, Gulden highlighted that such separations are a natural aspect of business when working with third-party entities, whether they are athletes or entertainers. Additionally, he expressed his belief that Kanye West may not have intended his statements in the way they were perceived and that he did not consider West a fundamentally bad person.

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