New York: Adidas CEO Bjørn Gulden said he doesn’t think that Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, really meant the antisemitic statements he made last year that led the sneaker maker to terminate their highly lucrative partnership.
“Very unfortunate, because I don’t think he meant what he said and I don’t think he’s a bad person,” Gulden said on the “In Good Company” podcast last week. “It just came across that way.”
Gulden described Ye as one of the world’s most creative people for his contributions to music and to “street culture.” He classed the Yeezy line of sneakers that Adidas and Ye created as one of the industry’s most successful collaborations.
At the time of the scandal, Gulden was CEO of Puma SE. He took over at Adidas in January, after the split with Ye had occurred. He reflected on the affair during a wide-ranging, half-hour conversation with Nicolai Tangen, who runs the podcast for Norges Bank, a top investor in Adidas, and oversees Norway’s $1.4 trillion sovereign wealth fund. Both men are Norwegian, but spoke in English.
Tangen, who introduced Gulden as “a really impressive leader,” asked him to describe the string of crises that Adidas endured in the past few years, before he joined. They included the erratic and offensive behavior of Ye, which Adidas was criticized for moving too slowly to fully condemn. Ye’s actions included wearing a White Lives Matter shirt at a Yeezy fashion show in Paris, and making a series of antisemitic remarks “- at one point posting that he would go “death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE.”
“When you work with third parties, that could happen,” Gulden said of the situation. “You know, it’s part of the game. That can happen with an athlete. It can happen with an entertainer. So, it’s part of the business.”
An Adidas spokesman said the company’s position that ending the partnership was appropriate hasn’t changed.