Bjorn Gulden, the outgoing CEO of Puma, is taking the mantle of arch-rival Adidas's new boss.
The chemistry between the largest sportswear manufacturer in Europe and the second biggest entity to Nike worldwide runs deep.
The hiring of 57-year-old Norwegian, who had served as senior vice president of apparel and accessories at Adidas in the 1990s before joining Puma, where he has been CEO since 2013, is intended to rejuvenate the company. For Adidas, roping in the ex-footballer can be like scoring points over Puma.
The company stock rose on Tuesday as the German sportswear giant confirmed luring Gulden away from rival Puma to be its new chief executive.
Meanwhile, the Supervisory Board of PUMA SE has decided to appoint its chief commercial officer Arne Freundt as CEO with immediate effect.
Adidas stock rose by 2.5% in Frankfurt, while Puma stock fell by 1.2%. Adidas has risen some 25% since Manager Magazin announced its efforts to bring Gulden on board.
Gulden, who will replace outgoing CEO Kasper Rorsted at Adidas on January 1, has an uphill task ahead. Adidas has suffered a sharp decline in profitability in recent months due to problems in both the U.S. and China.
Just two weeks ago, the group issued its second profit warning. The company predicted its profits this year to be down some 60% from 2021.
It’s a strange coincidence that the problems of Adidas and Puma, which trace their roots in 20th century Germany are almost similar. Though Puma's business suffered a loss during the pandemic time in sportswear and casual clothing, Adidas' problems have a league of their own.
Adidas has faced a recent public relations crisis in its dealings with rapper Kanye West. The company terminated its partnership with his Yeezy brand after a series of antisemitic remarks from the singer.
The news of Gulden’s joining the Herzogenaurach-based firm, which owns a share of the German football club Bayern Munich, became public, and also gave rise to speculation as to whether the high-profile leader can resuscitate the struggling firm.
A consumer backlash against the firm in China after western activists forced it to distance itself from suppliers in the province of Xinjiang over human rights concerns, along with a public relations nightmare in the US has hit the company.
Gulden will return to a company, which was one of his first employers after he had bid his career in professional soccer adieu. His earlier stint saw him serving the company as a senior vice president for apparel and accessories for seven years in the 1990s.
He is created with making the group a quasi-luxury brand. His tenure saw Puma drive a five-fold increase in its stock price before the pandemic arrived.
Gulden had also helmed the Danish jewellery brand Pandora as CEO. He was once the managing director of footwear retailer Deichmann and president of Rack Room Shoes. Gulden also became the board chairman at Danish food retailer Salling Group.
Gulden “knows the industry extremely well and draws on a rich network in sport and retail,” Adidas supervisory board chairman Thomas Rabe was quoted as saying by AP.
Gulden had reinvigorated the Puma brand and drove unprecedented growth for the company.