A remarkable transfer is causing an uproar in the world of sports fashion: Puma CEO Bjørn Gulden is leaving his company after nine years in charge. Nothing remarkable there, until rumours surfaced (and were confirmed) that Gulden is on his way to Puma’s arch rival Adidas. Which is the sports fashion equivalent of going from Liverpool to Everton…
Gulden’s press release sounds innocuous enough: he states that his contract ends on 31 December and that he has decided not to renew it after nine years in charge. His successor will be current CCO Arne Freundt, who has been with the company for more than a decade.
There is more to the story, however: Gulden seems to be on his way to becoming CEO at Adidas. After rumours surfaced that talks between Adidas and Gulden were ongoing, the brand with the three stripes confirmed that the talks had in fact progressed so well that it is only a matter of time until the contract is signed. Given the rivalry between both companies, this is a very notable move indeed.
In 1949, a heated argument between brothers Adolf and Rudolf Dassler led to the division of the Dassler Schuhfabrik in Herzogenaurach, which they had founded together thirty years earlier. The brothers decided to go their separate ways: Rudolf founded Puma, Adolf (‘Adi’) gave his name to Adidas.
Both companies kept their headquarters in the same city and the rivalry remained strong, even though today the brands are no longer in family hands: Adidas is listed on the stock exchange and Puma is owned by Groupe Artémis, a holding company owned by French businessman François Pinault.
Repeat good results
CEO Gulden received a lot of praise for how well Puma performed in recent years: he steered the brand through the turbulent pandemic period in one piece and into its best results ever in 2021. Turnover rose by 31.7 % last year, and gross profit even by 166 %.
Adidas hopes he can duplicate those results on the other side of Herzogenaurach, where a precarious period was compounded by difficulties in the Chinese market, supply problems, the effects of inflation and an embarrassing split with influencer Kanye ‘Ye’ West.
Investors at Adidas clearly like the rumoured transfer: since news of the switch broke, Adidas’ share price has already risen by 20 %.