Adidas Ends Kanye West Partnership, Gap Pulls Yeezy Products Over Rapper’s Anti-Semitic Remarks
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Adidas Ends Kanye West Partnership, Gap Pulls Yeezy Products Over Rapper’s Anti-Semitic Remarks

Sportswear company’s move ends lucrative arrangement that produced the popular Yeezy collection of sneakers

By GEORGI KANTCHEV
Wed, Oct 26, 2022 8:49amGrey Clock 4 min

Adidas AG said it would end its partnership with Kanye West and Gap Inc. said it would pull apparel he helped design from its stores, after a string of controversies including a recent anti-Semitic outburst from the musician and fashion-brand owner.

Adidas’s decision, which ends a lucrative arrangement that has produced the popular Yeezy collection of sneakers, comes after weeks of pressure on the German sportswear company from human-rights advocates and after other businesses severed their ties with Mr. West, who goes by Ye.

Gap, which ended its partnership with Mr. West in September but was still selling items it had already produced, said Tuesday that it was removing Yeezy Gap products from its stores and had shut down a website that was still selling hoodies and other merchandise from the partnership.

“Our former partner’s recent remarks and behaviour further underscore why” Gap ended its partnership, the retailer said in a statement.

Mr. West and his representatives didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. He has publicly complained about Adidas and Gap, accusing the companies of stealing his designs and breaking promises to expand his ventures. He had said that he was key to Adidas’s success. “I can say antisemitic things and Adidas can’t drop me. Now what?” he said in a podcast that aired earlier this month.

In early October, Mr. West appeared at his Yzy fashion show in Paris wearing a “White Lives Matter” shirt, a slogan often used by white supremacist groups, and a week later wrote a tweet that said in part that he planned to go “death con [sic] 3 on Jewish people.”

Film-and-television studio MRC and French fashion house Balenciaga are among companies that have distanced themselves from Mr. West in recent weeks. The talent agency CAA has dropped Mr. West as a client, according to a person familiar with the matter.

On Oct. 6, Adidas put its partnership with Mr. West under review. Days later, Twitter Inc. and Meta Platforms Inc.’s Instagram locked his accounts after he made anti-Semitic posts.

Adidas said Tuesday that Mr. West’s recent comments and actions have been “unacceptable, hateful and dangerous, and they violate the company’s values of diversity and inclusion, mutual respect and fairness.”

The breakup adds another major headwind for Adidas, which has been struggling to grow in China, the largest apparel and footwear market in the world. Adidas is also in the midst of searching for a new chief executive after the company unexpectedly said in August that its current leader, Kasper Rorsted, will step down next year.

“The termination of the partnership with Kanye West is understandable and necessary. Financially, the termination is a heavy blow,” said Ingo Speich, head of sustainability and corporate governance at German fund manager Deka Investment, which holds 0.7% of Adidas. “It remains to be hoped that no further partnerships will be lost.”

Adidas said it would terminate the partnership immediately, end production of Yeezy branded products and stop all payments to Mr. West and his companies. The decision is expected to have a short-term hit of up to €250 million, equivalent to $247 million, on the company’s net income in 2022, the company said.

Adidas shares fell more than 3% in Frankfurt trading Tuesday. They are down more than 60% this year.

Over the weekend, protesters in Los Angeles held a banner above a major freeway expressing support for Mr. West’s statements. “Kanye is right about the Jews,” it read.

After photos of the incident circulated on social media, a chorus of celebrities condemned anti-Semitism in online posts, including Kim Kardashian, who filed for divorce from Mr. West in 2021.

“Hate speech is never OK or excusable,” she wrote on Twitter on Monday. “I stand together with the Jewish community and call on the terrible violence and hateful rhetoric towards them to come to an immediate end.”

Human-rights campaigners in recent days had publicly criticised Adidas over its partnership with Mr. West. On Tuesday, the Central Council of Jews in Germany called on the company to end its partnership with the artist.

“As a German company, I simply expect from Adidas a clear stance when it comes to anti-Semitism,” the organisation’s president, Dr. Josef Schuster, said on Twitter. “Entrepreneurial interests must not be the priority.”

Addressing Adidas, Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, tweeted on Monday that “your silence is a danger to Jews.”

Adidas on Tuesday said it “does not tolerate anti-Semitism and any other sort of hate speech.”

Mr. West’s ventures in sneakers date to at least 2006 when he first collaborated with Adidas on a shoe that was never released. A year later the rapper started working with Nike Inc. and eventually released the coveted Nike Air Yeezy II, which included the famed Red Octobers. The Nike partnership ended in 2013.

Items that the artist designed in collaboration with Adidas made their debut in 2015, and the parties entered a long-term partnership the following year.

In the arrangement, Mr. West lends the Yeezy brand to the company in return for royalties of about 15% of the sales of Yeezy products. Adidas designs and manufactures the products, and it owns the designs, according to people familiar with the deal.

The partnership has been a boon for Adidas. The tie-up accounts for as much as 8% of Adidas’s total sales, analysts at UBS said in a report last week.

Without the partnership, the company’s annual sales have grown just 1% on average since 2017 compared with the actual sales growth of 3%, UBS estimated. Adidas has said that its partnership with Yeezy was one of the most successful collaborations in the industry.

But in recent months, Mr. West has criticised Adidas, as well as Gap, on social media. Gap decided to end its relationship with Mr. West last month, saying the company and Mr. West are “not aligned” in how they work together, The Wall Street Journal has reported.

Earlier this month, Adidas said it made repeated attempts to privately resolve disputes with Mr. West.

The breakup with Mr. West piles further pressure on the sporting goods maker, days after it cut its full-year guidance, citing a weaker business environment in China as well as a significant inventory buildup as a result of lower consumer demand in major Western markets. Other factors, such as suspended operations in Russia and the supply-chain problems that have engulfed global business, have contributed to the company’s lacklustre performance lately.

The company said on Thursday that it now expects currency-neutral revenue to grow by a mid-single-digit percentage rate in 2022, down from a mid- to high-single-digit percentage forecast previously.

Corrections & Amplifications
The musician and fashion-brand owner is Kanye West. An earlier version of this article incorrectly called him Kayne West in one instance. (Corrected on Oct. 25)



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A Killer Golf Swing Is a Hot Job Skill Now

Companies are eager to hire strong players who use hybrid work schedules to schmooze clients on the course

By CALLUM BORCHERS
Fri, Jun 14, 2024 5 min

Standout golfers who aren’t quite PGA Tour material now have somewhere else to play professionally: Corporate America.

People who can smash 300-yard drives and sink birdie putts are sought-after hires in finance, consulting, sales and other industries, recruiters say. In the hybrid work era, the business golf outing is back in a big way.

Executive recruiter Shawn Cole says he gets so many requests to find ace golfers that he records candidates’ handicaps, an index based on average number of strokes over par, in the information packets he submits to clients. Golf alone can’t get you a plum job, he says—but not playing could cost you one.

“I know a guy that literally flies around the world in a private jet loaded with French wine, and he golfs and lands hundred-million-dollar deals,” Cole says.

Tee times and networking sessions have long gone hand-in-golf-glove. Despite criticism that doing business on the course undermines diversity, equity and inclusion efforts—and the fact that golf clubs haven’t always been open to women and minorities —people who mix golf and work say the outings are one of the last reprieves from 30-minute calendar blocks

Stars like Tiger Woods and Michelle Wie West helped expand participation in the sport. Still, just 22% of golfers are nonwhite and 26% are women, according to the National Golf Foundation.

To lure more people, clubs have relaxed rules against mobile-phone use on the course, embracing white-collar professionals who want to entertain clients on the links without disconnecting from the office. It’s no longer taboo to check email from your cart or take a quick call at the halfway turn.

With so much other business conducted virtually, shaking hands on the green and schmoozing over clubhouse beers is now seen as making an extra effort, not slacking off.

Americans played a record 531 million rounds last year. Weekday play has nearly doubled since 2019, with much of the action during business hours , according to research by Stanford University economist Nicholas Bloom .

“It would’ve been scandalous in 2019 to be having multiple meetings a week on the golf course,” Bloom says. “In 2024, if you’re producing results, no one’s going to see anything wrong with it.”

A financial adviser at a major Wall Street bank who competes on the amateur circuit told me he completes 90% of his tasks by 10 a.m. because he manages long-term investment plans that change infrequently. The rest of his workday often involves golfing with clients and prospects. He’s a member of a private club with a multiyear waiting list, and people jump at the chance to join him on a course they normally can’t access.

There is an art to bringing in business this way. He never initiates shoptalk, telling his playing partners the round is about having fun and getting to know each other. They can’t resist asking about investment strategies by the back nine, he says.

Work hard, play hard

Matt Parziale golfed professionally on minor-league tours for several years, but when his dream of making the big time ended, he had to get a regular job. He became a firefighter, like his dad.

A few years later he won one of the biggest amateur tournaments in the country, earning spots in the 2018 Masters and U.S. Open, where he tied for first among non-pros.

The brush with celebrity brought introductions to business types that Parziale, 35 years old, says he wouldn’t have met otherwise. One connection led to a job with a large insurance broker. In 2022 he jumped to Deland, Gibson Insurance Associates in Wellesley, Mass., which recognised his golf game as a tool to help win large accounts.

He rescheduled our interview because he was hosting clients at a private club on Cape Cod, and squeezed me in the next morning, before teeing off with a business group in Newport, R.I.

A short time ago, Parziale couldn’t imagine making a living this way. Now he’s the norm in elite amateur golf circles.

“I look around at the guys at the events I play, and they all have these jobs ,” he says.

His boss, Chief Executive Chip Gibson, says Parziale is good at bringing in business because he puts as much effort into building relationships as honing his game. A golf outing is merely an opportunity to build trust that can eventually lead to a deal, and it’s a misconception that people who golf during work hours don’t work hard, he says.

Barry Allison’s single-digit handicap is an asset in his role as a management consultant at Accenture , where he specialises in travel and hospitality. He splits time between Washington, D.C., and The Villages, Fla., a golf mecca that boasts more than 50 courses.

It can be hard to get to know people in distributed work environments, he says. Go golfing and you’ll learn a lot about someone’s temperament—especially after a bad shot.

“If you see a guy snap a club over his knee, you don’t know what he’s going to snap next,” Allison says.

Special access

On a recent afternoon I was a lunch guest at Brae Burn Country Club, a private enclave outside Boston that was the site of U.S. Golf Association championships won by legends like Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones. I parked in the second lot because the first one was full—on a Wednesday.

My host was Cullen Onstott, managing director of the Onstott Group executive search firm and a former collegiate golfer at Fairfield University. He explained one reason companies prize excellent golfers is they can put well-practiced swings on autopilot and devote most of their attention to chitchat.

It’s hard to talk with potential customers about their needs and interests when you’re hunting for errant shots in the woods. It’s also challenging if you show off.

The first hole at Brae Burn is a 318-yard par 4 that slopes down, enabling big hitters like Onstott to reach the putting green in a single stroke. But to stay close to his playing partners and keep the conversation flowing, he sometimes hits a shorter shot.

Having an “in” at an exclusive club can make you a catch. Bo Burch, an executive recruiter in North Carolina, says clubs in his region tend to attract members according to their business sectors. One might be chock-full of real-estate investors while another has potential buyers of industrial manufacturing equipment.

Burch looks for candidates who are members of clubs that align with his clients’ industries, though he stresses that business acumen comes first when filling positions.

Tami McQueen, a former Division I tennis player and current chief marketing officer at Atlanta investment firm BIP Capital, signed up for private golf lessons this year. She had noticed colleagues were wearing polos with course logos and bringing their clubs to work. She wanted in.

McQueen joined business associates on the golf course for the first time in March at the PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. She has lowered her handicap to a respectable 26 and says her new skill lends a professional edge.

“To be able to say, ‘I can play with you and we can have those business meetings on the course’ definitely opens a lot more doors,” she says.

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Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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