Adidas CEO: Kanye West didn't mean antisemitic remarks

FILE PHOTO: Adidas CEO Bjoern Gulden attends the company's annual news conference in Herzogenaurach, Germany, March 8, 2023. REUTERS/Heiko Becker/File Photo

BERLIN (Reuters) - Adidas CEO Bjorn Gulden has defended the artist formerly known as Kanye West, saying he didn't think the divisive celebrity meant the antisemitic remarks that led to his lucrative Yeezy collaboration with the German sportswear giant being axed.

Adidas ended its partnership with West, who now goes by the name Ye, in October 2022 after he sparked outrage with his erratic posts on social media, including a tweet in which he called for "death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE".

Commenting on the scandal which has cost Adidas tens of millions in lost sales, Gulden told the In Good Company podcast that Ye had made some statements that weren't "that good".

"I don't think he meant what he said and I don't think he's a bad person - it just came across that way," the CEO said in an episode that aired on Sept. 13.

Gulden also praised Ye as "one of the most creative people in the world ... both in music and what I will call street culture".

Adidas did not respond to Reuters' emailed request for comment on the podcast interview.

Formerly at the helm of rival Puma, Gulden was brought on board as chief executive of Adidas at the start of 2022 to rebuild the bruised brand after dealing with the fallout the controversy.

In May, after reviewing what to do with unsold Yeezy stock, Gulden announced that Adidas would sell some of the merchandise and donate part of the proceeds to organisations campaigning against racism and antisemitism.

Strong sales of Yeezy stocks have helped narrow a projected full-year loss at the company.

In the podcast, Gulden spoke of the dangers of working with celebrity collaborators: "When you work with third parties that could happen," he said. "It's part of the game."

(Reporting by Rachel More; Editing by Mark Potter)

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