Adidas officially appoints former Puma chief Bjørn Gulden as next CEO

There’s a new sheriff in town at Adidas.

Bjørn Gulden, who was previously confirmed to be in the mix for the top job at Adidas, officially assumes the role of CEO effective January 1, 2023. Gulden, who stepped down as CEO from rival Puma last week will also be a board member of Adidas.

Outgoing Adidas CEO Kasper Rørsted will leave the company on November 11 after initially announcing his intention to step down next year.

Adidas AG Chief Financial Officer Harm Ohlmeyer will lead the company on an interim basis until December 31, 2022.

Arne Freundt, who was originally scheduled to succeed Gulden as CEO and President of Puma SE effective January 1, 2023, now takes the reins of both gigs immediately.

Gulden, 57, had been CEO of Puma since 2013 but is making a long-awaited return to Adidas, where he served as senior vice president of apparel and accessories from 1992 to 1999.

Gulden’s extensive resume shows a recent focus on the fashion and apparel sectors, as the executive was CEO of Danish jewelry brand Pandora from 2011 to 2013 before his tenure at Puma. And in the previous decade, he was managing director of Europe’s largest shoe retailer, Deichmann, and also president of the US subsidiary Rack Room Shoes. He has also held various management positions with outdoor clothing company Helly Hansen and is currently Chairman of the Board of Salling Group, Denmark’s largest food retailer.

“We are very happy to welcome Bjørn Gulden back to Adidas. Bjørn Gulden brings nearly 30 years of experience in the sporting goods and footwear industry,” said Thomas Rabe, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Adidas AG. “As a result, he knows the industry extremely well and draws on a rich network in sport and retail. Bjørn Gulden already served Adidas successfully for seven years in the 1990s. As CEO of Puma, he reinvigorated the brand and led the company to record results. The Supervisory Board of Adidas AG is convinced that Bjørn Gulden will lead Adidas into a new era of strength and looks forward to a fruitful cooperation.

Gulden now has a major task to right the ship at Adidas, which hasn’t had a smooth ride this year. The company has cut ties with shoe partner Yeezy Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, following a series of anti-Semitic remarks by the hip-hop artist and designer. The Yeezy split is expected to cost Adidas around 250 million euros ($248 million). Morningstar analyst David Swartz estimates that the Yeezy brand brings in nearly $2 billion in revenue annually. The fallout from Ye was so damaging that one of Yeezy’s suppliers had to lay off 142 of its roughly 200 employees.

Then there are the sportswear brand’s known struggles in China, where preliminary currency-neutral sales fell to a “strong double-digit rate” for the third quarter. In the prior period, Adidas saw its currency-neutral sales in the region drop by 35.1%. Like Nike, the problems in China go a long way, most recently due to the country’s zero-Covid lockdown policies that wiped out foot traffic in many physical stores. Throughout the pandemic, the two companies have also felt the heat of consumer boycotts after speaking out about cotton sourcing in China’s Xinjiang region, where evidence suggests forced labor is rampant.

Adidas also incurred more than $300 million in expenses when it left Russia earlier this year after the country invaded Ukraine.

If Puma’s recent performances are any indication, Gulden appears to be up for the challenge. Puma’s third-quarter sales rose 23.9% to 2.35 billion euros ($2.33 billion), with net profit rising 1.8% to 146.4 million euros ($145 billion). millions of dollars). Adidas’ revenue growth in the same quarter was only half that of Puma, up 11% to 6.41 billion euros ($6.27 billion). Net income fell dramatically amid the Russia exit to 179 million euros ($175.1 million), down from 2021’s 479 million euros ($468.6 million ). And while Adidas has cut its forecast three times this year citing global headwinds, Puma reiterated its full-year outlook in October three months after raising its revenue forecast.

Rabe thanked Rørsted in a statement, listing some of the outgoing executive’s most notable achievements during his six-year tenure as chief executive.

“We would like to thank Kasper Rørsted for his major achievements at Adidas. He strategically repositioned the company and accelerated its digital transformation,” said Rabe. “In North America, the largest sporting goods market in the world, Adidas doubled its sales. Additionally, Adidas strengthened its leadership position in sustainability and increased diversity, equity and inclusion across the company. Following the successful divestiture of TaylorMade, CCM Hockey and Reebok, the company is now able to focus its efforts on its flagship Adidas brand. We wish Kasper Rørsted all the best for his future endeavours.

Two institutional investors who have stakes in Adidas backed the move ahead of Gulden’s formal appointment as CEO. Ingo Speich, head of corporate governance at German asset management firm Deka Investment, told Bloomberg that Gulden is “a blessing to Adidas”, saying he “brings the necessary skills to markets and markets capital”. Thomas Joekel, fund manager at Union Investments, told the outlet that Gulden “would be an ideal successor.”

Adidas stock rose about 3% in Tuesday morning trading following the C-suite news. Shares soared as much as 25% last Friday after the company confirmed Gulden was in talks to become CEO.

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