WWhy wander into the distance, the good is so close – in the case of Adidas and Puma, so to speak, on the doorstep, the headquarters in Franconian Herzogenaurach are only a few kilometers apart. Björn Gulden, who was still Puma boss until the end of the year, would not have to take a long detour for his new position as CEO of the neighboring competitor.
Nothing is decided yet. The only thing that is certain so far is that Adidas is “in talks” with Gulden about a possible successor to CEO Kasper Rorsted, as the global number two sporting goods manufacturer announced on Friday afternoon. Puma had announced shortly before that the 57-year-old Norwegian would let his management contract expire at the end of the year and that the current Sales Director Arne Freundt – who has held various positions at Puma for more than ten years – will take over the top position from January. Freundt was previously responsible for Puma’s strategy, online business and the European region, among other things, and will now receive a four-year contract.
He puts his trust in guilders
“I still have a lot of energy for an operational role for the next 5 to 10 years, but that would have been too long for Puma,” Gulden was quoted as saying on Friday, fueling rumors of a transfer. In the summer, Adidas announced that the Dane Rorsted would leave the company prematurely and that a successor would be sought. A Puma spokeswoman did not want to comment on whether Gulden has a non-competition clause in his contract. The “Manager Magazin” reported that Gulden could not change directly. CFO Harm Ohlmeyer could lead Adidas during the waiting period. The Adidas price was nevertheless boosted on Friday and rose by up to 29 percent in the meantime. The Puma course fell. This shows how much trust the market has in Gulden.
Investors are already welcoming him as the new Adidas boss. “Björn Gulden had a high reputation as Puma boss, he was crucial for the turnaround there and the brand strength of Puma,” says Stifel analyst Cedric Lecasble. He could also give impetus to the Adidas brand again. Ingo Speich, Head of Corporate Governance at Deka Investment, told the Bloomberg news agency that Gulden was a blessing for Adidas, bringing the necessary knowledge and experience to markets such as the capital market. The Puma boss has transformed the small company into one of the strongest in the industry, said Thomas Jökel, fund manager at Union Investment.
The bigger rival has been anything but smooth in the past few months. While Puma posted record figures in the third quarter, Adidas again had to scale back its own targets – for the second time in just three months. The pressure on the Adidas supervisory board, led by Bertelsmann boss Thomas Rabe, to quickly present a Rorsted successor has recently increased. The group had terminated the lucrative cooperation with rapper Kanye West because of his anti-Semitic statements, which will depress profits. Above all, the balance sheet is also burdened by the weak China business, which accounts for a significant part of Adidas’ income. In addition, both Nike and Adidas now have full stocks, as customers in Europe and especially America are holding back due to increased food and energy prices. The goods must therefore be sold with discounts. There are many construction sites that Gulden would have to tackle.