Adidas CEO Bjorn Gulden has defended Kanye West’s remarks that resulted in his company severing ties with the artist now known as Ye.
The German sportswear giant ended its long-time collaboration with Ye over the remarks in October 2022. His erratic posts on social media included at least one in which the rapper called for “death con 3 on Jewish people.” Ye also went on podcasts, speaking in tirades against Jewish people by saying he can “say antisemitic sh*t” and Adidas could not drop him because of how much money he made for the company through their partnership.
Gulden admitted that severing the relationship with Ye cost the company millions in lost sales following comments made by the rapper that weren’t “that good.”
“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 Adidas CEO said in an episode of Nice Kicks, a podcast dedicated to footwear. Despite those comments, Gulden confirmed the Adidas partnership was the right course. “That meant we lost that business, one of the most successful collabs in history—very sad.”
Adidas took its time to assess its situation and its unsold Yeezy stock following the rapper’s comments. In May 2023 the company announced it would sell the remaining merchandise and donate the proceeds to organizations that are dedicated to campaigning against racism and antisemitism. Sales of Yeezy stock went quickly and have helped Adidas narrow its projected full-year loss at the company. Perhaps in a warning to other businesses who seek out high-profile celebrity collaborations, Gulden shared this advice.
“When you work with third parties, that could happen, it’s part of the game,” he adds. Gulden became CEO of Adidas in November 2022. Following Ye’s removal, Adidas signed a $1.2 billion deal with British football club Manchester United to find its next successful collaboration.