Adidas AG on Tuesday confirmed that it has tapped Bjørn Gulden to succeed outgoing chief executive officer Kasper Rorsted.
The 57-year-old Gulden, who has been the CEO at Puma since 2013, will take on his new role at the athletic rival on Jan. 1. He will also serve as a member of the executive board at Adidas. Meanwhile, Rorsted and the athletic juggernaut’s supervisory board have agreed that he will exit the company as of Friday.
During the nearly two-month lapse in the changing of the guard, Harm Ohlmeyer, the company’s chief financial officer, will lead the company until the end of the year. Rorsted’s plans were first announced in late August, and rumblings of the prospect of Gulden joining Adidas had surfaced in recent weeks. So much so that Adidas confirmed on Friday that it was interviewing Gulden for the CEO role. That revelation was prompted by a change in leadership at rival Puma.
On Friday, Puma confirmed that Gulden would not be renewing his contract with the company and announced that Arne Freundt has been named CEO of the company and chairman of its management board. This is a promotion for the 10-year Puma veteran, who inked a four-year contract and will take over the top job in January. His responsibilities at Puma have included working in corporate strategy, global direct-to-consumer business and serving as general manager of the Europe, the Middle East and Africa region.
A former professional football and handball player and seasoned sporting goods executive, Gulden is no stranger to Adidas. From 1992 to 1999, he acted as senior vice president of apparel and accessories. His work experience also includes tenure at accessories-focused companies such as the Danish jewelry brand Pandora, where he had been CEO. The Norwegian-born executive also was previously managing director of Europe’s largest footwear retailer Deichmann and at one point was the president of Rack Room Shoes. Gulden also had a management post at the outdoor apparel company Helly Hansen, and was at one point chairman of the board of the Salling Group, Denmark’s largest food retailer.
Adidas recently faced a firestorm of criticism for not severing ties faster with Kanye West, the artist now known as Ye, after his antisemitic and racial remarks. Last month, the company terminated the Adidas-Yeezy agreement. Yeezy generated an estimated $2 billion a year — nearly 10 percent of Adidas’ revenues, according to Morningstar analyst David Swartz. RBC Capital Markets’ analyst Piral Dadhania estimated Friday that parting ways with Ye would amount to a 500 million euro loss of revenues in fiscal 2022, followed by 1.7 billion euros to 1.8 billion euros in lost revenues in fiscal 2023, which translates into a 250 million euro and 700 million euro to 750 million euro impact on net income, respectively.
Under Gulden’s leadership, Puma’s most recent annual sales increased 32 percent to 6.8 billion euros and profits rose to 557 million euros, marking the brand’s all-time strongest results. In a farewell message to Gulden for his nine years of service, the chair of Puma’s supervisory board Héloïse Temple-Boyer thanked him “for his excellent contributions,” during his nine years of service “in which he brought the Puma Group back on track” and “made sure to leave it in outstanding shape.”
In welcoming back Gulden to Adidas, Thomas Rabe, chairman of the supervisory board, acknowledged how he “re-invigorated” Puma and ”led the company to record results.” In addition, the supervisory board is “convinced” that Gulden will head Adidas “into a new era of strength.”
Rabe also praised Rorsted for repositioning the company and fast-forwarding its digital transformation, noting that North American sales have doubled. He also cited advancements in sustainability and increased diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout the company, as well as the divestiture of TaylorMade, CCM Hockey and Reebok to sharpen Adidas’ focus on its core brand.