Adidas' CEO on Taylor Swift, Yeezy

Bjørn Gulden clarifies his recent run-in with Ye.

Kanye West (Ye) and Adidas CEO Bjorn Gulden
Ye posted a photo with Adidas CEO Bjørn Gulden after the Super Bowl in February. Via Ye on Instagram
Kanye West (Ye) and Adidas CEO Bjorn Gulden

Adidas posted its 2023 earnings on Wednesday, reporting its first loss in over 30 years. Between all the financial results—€750 million in Yeezy revenue in 2023, flat sales vs. the prior year, a 24 percent decrease in inventory as of December—CEO Bjørn Gulden spent time in his presentation discussing Adidas’ past and potential partnerships with pop culture icons. 

Gulden clarified Adidas’ standing with Ye, the artist formerly known as Kanye West whose Yeezy sneaker line contributed billions to Adidas’ bottom line in the past decade, and its interest in Taylor Swift, who’s recently worn Adidas.

“Some of you asked me yesterday if we could sign Taylor Swift,” said Gulden, speaking from Adidas’ headquarters in Herzogenaurach, Germany. “I said I would love to—I don't know how I’d do it, but right now she's also wearing our products from time to time, which might help.”

His comment is likely not an indication that Adidas is actually working on a deal with Swift; if that were the case, brand leadership would not be inclined to leak the news via a brief remark in an earnings report. Gulden’s presentation included photos of Blake Lively, who attended this year’s Super Bowl in Las Vegas alongside Swift, wearing an Adidas tracksuit at the game.

After his prepared remarks on Wednesday, the Adidas CEO fielded questions about Ye and the status of the Yeezy line. Adidas ended its hugely successful collaboration with Ye in 2022 after he excoriated Adidas leadership and repeatedly made antisemitic posts on social media.

Adidas has been slowly selling off its remaining Yeezy inventory since 2022. It's in the process of donating €140 million in proceeds from Yeezy sales to anti-hate groups, according to Adidas execs.

Gulden declined to give specifics about how much Adidas is still paying Ye in royalties for the Yeezys it continues to sell.

“Given that we are in a legal conflict with Ye, giving numbers out—what we pay and what we accrue—I can’t give you,” he said. “But, it’s obvious that every royalty on any product that we’ve sold is either accrued or paid. I can’t say anything else.”

When Ye posted a photo in February of him sitting next to Gulden after the Super Bowl, it prompted speculation that the brand was testing how a potential relaunch of the Adidas Yeezy line would be received. Adidas’ CEO said this was not the case.

“I met him at an airport in LA on the way back from Super Bowl and he came to me and I was sitting there with some German friends,” Gulden said. “Because he approached me, I talked to him. It was not a meeting, there was no business discussions.”

Gulden insisted that there has been no change in Adidas’ relationship with Ye in the past year.

“There was no planned meetings, there was no talk about anything, there was no hypothetical,” Gulden said. “The contract is ended, we are selling off the inventory.”

He also insisted that those asking questions refer to Ye by the monosyllabic name he adopted in 2018, and not Kanye West.

“Mr. West calls himself Ye,” Gulden said, “so be careful how you call him.”

This courtesy aside, the relationship between Adidas and Ye is not exactly copacetic right now. This week, Ye wrote “fuck Adidas and everybody who works there or with them.” Days later, he appeared onstage in San Francisco wearing a hoodie bearing the words ФАК АДИДАС, a Russian transliteration of “Fuck Adidas.”

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