Puma boss becomes Adidas boss – economy


Björn Gulden will have to adapt. Or he will suffer inconspicuously in the future. The Norwegian is a Borussia Dortmund fan and he always suffered when BVB lost to Bayern Munich, which is more common. Gulden’s fan status may be due to the fact that Puma is a supplier and shareholder at Borussia. He personally, a professional soccer player himself when he was young, engineered these deals in his capacity as CEO of Puma. But now the 57-year-old manager is moving to the head of the much larger rival Adidas. And thus to the brand that has been closely linked to FC Bayern as a supplier, investor and since the times of Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Müller.

The spectacular change that has been going on since the weekend would never have failed because of this between the two largest German sporting goods groups. He has been official since Tuesday afternoon: Puma boss Björn Gulden is resigning from his post after nine years with immediate effect and from January 1, 2023 he will be the new CEO of rival Adidas, which is three times as big in terms of sales. There the hapless incumbent Kasper Rorsted says goodbye this week. He will be succeeded temporarily by CFO Harm Ohlmeyer until the end of the year. And at puma Arne Freundt, the company’s sales director, will not wait until the beginning of 2023 to succeed Gulden, but immediately.

Björn Gulden: Today, Adidas is number two in the world of sporting goods after US rival Nike.

Today, Adidas is number two in the sporting goods world after US rival Nike.

(Photo: imago sport photo service)

The relief of Adidas supervisory board chairman Thomas Rabe about Gulden’s obligation speaks from every line in a statement distributed by the Herzogenaurach three-stripe group. “Björn Gulden has almost 30 years of experience in the sporting goods and shoe industry. He is therefore very familiar with the industry and has an excellent network in sports and sports retail,” says Rabe, the main job head of the media giant Bertelsmann. Gulden is obviously the preferred candidate of the supervisory board, which has been desperately looking for a new boss for months. Gulden had already worked successfully for Adidas for seven years in the 1990s, according to Rabe. In his time as head of Puma since 2013, the Norwegian reinvigorated the brand and led to record results. “The Supervisory Board of Adidas AG is firmly convinced that Björn Gulden will lead Adidas into a new era of strength and is looking forward to a successful cooperation,” says Thomas Rabe.

The rivalry had sectarian features

The personnel situation immediately before the start of the soccer World Cup in Qatar, which is important for all sports brands, is a very special one. The head of one of the largest sporting goods manufacturers has never changed to the head of a direct competitor. In this specific case, there is also the fact that both Adidas and Puma have their corporate headquarters just a few hundred meters away in the small town of Herzogenaurach near Nuremberg – and a very special, shared history.

Founded by the brothers Adolf and Rudolf at the end of the 1940s, not only the two gentlemen, but also their companies and their employees with their families were deadly enemies for decades. The rivalry had sectarian features. The first look was always at the shoes of the other person to find out to which camp he or she belonged. There were clubs and pubs in Herzogenaurach where either the Adidas or the Puma community frequented. When the two camps met, they ignored each other at best, but rarely parted amicably.

Of course, all of this is history and part of brand folklore. Today, Adidas is number two in the sporting goods world, after US rival Nike, and Puma is number three. Two competitors, but nothing more.

The fact that Adidas is now very relieved about Gulden’s commitment is not only noticeable on site. The three-stripe mark has seemed oddly paralyzed for months. It is struggling with enormous sales slumps in its formerly large and important market, China. The slump in consumption contributed to the frustrated mood, as did a dispute with the US rapper Kanye West who has become anti-Semitic. The fact that Adidas ended the long-standing collaboration with West, which is questionable in many respects, a few days ago, met with widespread approval. However, the price for this is very high: the Yeezy shoe collection designed by West brought in hundreds of millions of euros a year for both Adidas and the US musician. Money that is now missing from Adidas’ already bad balance sheets.

It had to be three times company 2022 downgrade its forecasts for the current fiscal year. Rival Puma, on the other hand, is happy about high sales and profit jumps. The shoes and shirts of the brand with the big cat logo are more popular than ever.

Now Björn Gulden should repeat his success story at Adidas. Instead of Kasper Rorsted, 60. Until then, head of the consumer goods manufacturer Henkel, he replaced Herbert Hainer at the top of Adidas in 2016, who still enjoys a lot of sympathy in the company and is highly regarded in the sports world – and is now President of FC Bayern. No other CEO of a group listed in the most important German stock index Dax managed a company longer than Hainer Adidas, it was a total of 15 years.

Rorsted’s start at Adidas was still very good, whereupon the chairman of the supervisory board, Rabe, also took off on Tuesday. “During his tenure since 2016, he has strategically realigned the company and significantly advanced the digital transformation of the company,” said Rabe on Tuesday. In the largest sporting goods market in the world, North America, Adidas doubled sales under Rorsted’s aegis; He also sold the subsidiaries TaylorMade, CCM Hockey and, above all, the chronically weak US subsidiary Reebok on good terms. On the other hand, complaints about Rorsted’s allegedly unempathetic and financially driven management style continued. Investors in particular also blamed him for the fact that he could not get the China problems under control and that the Adidas share had lost a lot of value for about a year and a half. In August, Adidas announced that Rorsted would be stepping down over the next year. Now everything is coming faster than expected.



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