A few days before the start of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, there has been a major change in the world of sports equipment. adidas has just appointed the CEO of PUMA – from now on it should be said the ex-CEO – the Swiss Bjørn Gulden, who will take over as CEO at the end of the year. CEO of PUMA since July 2013, the 57-year-old thus succeeds Kasper Rørsted.
After insistent rumors, adidas resolved a few days ago to issue a press release, confirming that it had approached Bjørn Gulden: “adidas confirms that the brand is in talks with PUMA CEO Bjørn Gulden as a potential successor to adidas CEO Kasper Rorsted,” before the announcement was finalized at the end of the week.
“We thank Bjørn Gulden for his excellent contributions during his more than nine years at PUMA in which he brought the PUMA Group back on track and made sure he leaves it in outstanding shape,” said Héloïse Temple-Boyer, Chair of the Supervisory Board of PUMA, before the leaping feline brand announced in the same breath the appointment of Arne Freundt, the group’s head of sales since last year, who will take over from January 1. Freundt is 42 years old and has a four-year contract. At PUMA, the brand’s new CEO has held several strategic positions in the company, including responsible for the Corporate Strategy, the Global Direct-to-Consumer business and the Region EMEA as a General Manager.
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“In Arne Freundt, we have a recognized leader withing the Company, taking over as CEO. He has been a designated candidate and is the ideal choice to continue PUMA’s very successful path and to further accelerate the Company’s momentum. He carries the PUMA family in his heart, and will ensure that PUMA continues to be the best partner for PUMA’s retailers, suppliers and athletes,” said the same Heloise Temple-Boyer.
On the announcement of these appointments, adidas shares were up 21.98% at around 15:15 GMT, while PUMA shares were down 3% on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.
Born in Norway, Björn Gulden was, in his former life, a professional footballer for 1.FC Nürnberg in the German Federal League – Bundesliga. He then moved on to work as a financial and marketing consultant for various companies, before taking up the position of managing director between 2000 and 2011 for Europe’s largest shoe retailer, Deichmann. From 2012 to 2013, he was CEO of the Danish jewelry brand Pandora. And from July 1, 2013 until recently, he served as CEO of PUMA.
Under Gulden’s leadership, PUMA’s annual sales reached record highs, increasing 32% to €6.8 million and profits reached €557 million, marking the brand’s all-time strongest results.
Upon arrival, the new CEO of adidas will face significant challenges. He will find a large group – adidas is number two in the world in the sector behind the American group Nike – in great financial difficulties, which had to cut this fall in its earnings forecasts for 2022, and which also suffers from an erosion in terms of image. Indeed, the Bavarian brand has been heavily criticized in recent weeks for not severing ties faster with Kanye West, aka Ye, after his antisemitic and racial remarks. Following the storm of criticism, the three-stripes brand recently ended the adidas-Yeezy deal, which still accounts for nearly 10% of its annual revenue, or about $2 billion a year.
In addition, adidas has reported a drop in sales in China and a slowdown in consumer demand in Western markets since the beginning of September, which has resulted in a significant inventory build-up.
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