Adidas CEO Bjorn Gulden said in a recent podcast interview that he doesn’t think rapper Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, “meant what he said” about Jewish people last year, adding he doesn’t think Ye is “a bad person, it just came across that way.”
When asked about what happened with Adidas and Ye on In Good Company, a podcast from Norges Bank Investment Management, Gulden recognized the artist made some statements that weren’t “that good,” leading Adidas to break the contract.
But Gulden, who was not yet leading the company at the time of the controversy, also offered praise for Ye, saying he’s “one of the most creative people in the world, both in music and … street culture.”
Gulden called the Yeezy shoe line one of the “most successful collabs” in history; it cost Adidas $440 million in sales in the first quarter of this year alone to discontinue the Yeezy line, according to the sportswear company.
Last October, Ye spouted antisemitic comments, conspiracy theories and criticized Black Lives Matter in a number of interviews and public appearances, leading to broken business relationships, his removal from social media platforms and widespread criticism. At the start of the month, Ye had models at his fashion show in Paris wear “White Lives Matter” shirts, a term that’s associated with a neo-Nazi group. Just days later, he took to X—formerly known as Twitter—to claim he was going to go “death con 3 on Jewish people.” He said it wasn’t antisemitic for him to tweet that because “black people are actually Jew also,” and his account was locked. Ye also repeatedly made comments that the Anti-Defamation League said use “age-old anti-Semitic myths about Jewish greed and power and control of the entertainment industry.” Ye said he didn’t regret his remarks, but did apologize for the “death con 3” comment on Piers Morgan Uncensored. In November, NBC News reported people who previously worked with Ye said he made several pro-Hitler and pro-Nazi remarks as far back as 2018. In addition to Adidas, Gap, Balenciaga, Vogue and JP Morgan Chase all broke ties with the artist. The essential collapse of his business empire caused Ye to lose his billionaire status.
“When you work with third parties that could happen and it’s part of the game,” Gulden said on the podcast. “That can happen with an athlete, it can happen with an entertainer, so it’s part of the business.”
$565 million. That’s how much Adidas made in May when it opted to sell the unsold Yeezy shoes that were left over after the company stopped working with Ye. The sale of Yeezy inventory helped Adidas reduce its projected operating loss for the year from $775 million to $598.56 million, the company said.
We estimate Ye’s net worth at $400 million—a fraction of his $2 billion estimated net worth last year.