Seven years ago, Adidas AG was gaining momentum with hot-selling shoes co-designed by influencers such as Pharrell Williams and Kanye West. But some investors thought managers were spending too much in their quest for cool and started calling for new leadership. They found their man in Kasper Rorsted, a famously frugal Dane whom Adidas hired as its chief executive officer after he produced record earnings at soap and detergent maker Henkel AG.
Rorsted quickly sold off the hockey and golf units and doubled down on e-commerce, fueling profits and prompting Germany’s Manager magazine to name him the country’s CEO of the year in 2019. But since Adidas’s shares peaked last year, various blows, blunders, and plain bad luck have conspired to erase most of Rorsted’s progress. With its profit margins and stock price falling below their 2016 levels, the company says Rorsted will step down next year to “pave the way for a restart.”