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Adidas to sell Yeezy shoes, donate proceeds after Kanye antisemitism row

$1.3 billion worth of unsold products gathering dust since firm cut ties with rapper in October; money to go to organizations harmed by Ye’s remarks, CEO says

A sign advertises Yeezy shoes made by Adidas at Kickclusive, a sneaker resale store, in Paramus, NJ, Tuesday, October 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
File: A sign advertises Yeezy shoes made by Adidas at Kickclusive, a sneaker resale store, in Paramus, NJ, Tuesday, October 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

WASHINGTON (AP) — After months of wrestling over the fate of millions of unsold Yeezy shoes, Adidas said Thursday it will sell a portion of its remaining inventory and donate the proceeds to charitable organizations.

The German sportswear company cut ties with Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, in late October, following his antisemitic comments on social media and in interviews. Since then, the fate of 1.2 billion euros ($1.3 billion) worth of the unsold Yeezys, a lucrative sneaker line launched with Ye, has been up in the air.

At Adidas’ annual shareholders’ meeting, CEO Bjorn Gulden said the company had spent months trying to find solutions. He said the company spoke to nongovernmental organizations and groups that were harmed by Ye’s comments and actions.

“Burning those shoes cannot be the solution,” Gulden said, adding that Adidas will try to sell part of the remaining Yeezy inventory and “donate money to the organizations that help us and were harmed by what Ye said.”

Exact details of the plan — including how many shoes will be sold and the timeline of selling them — were not disclosed. Gulden said the company will provide updates as it moves forward.

The move comes as Adidas is trying to stage a comeback and move beyond the Yeezy partnership. Cutting ties with Ye has cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars — contributing to a loss of 600 million euros ($655 million) in sales for the last three months of 2022, helping drive the company to a quarterly net loss of 513 million euros.

File: Boxes containing Yeezy shoes made by Adidas are seen at Laced Up, a sneaker resale store, in Paramus, N.J., Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Adidas reported 400 million euros ($441 million) in lost sales at the start of 2023, the company announced last week.

Net sales declined 1% in the first quarter, to 5.27 billion euros, and would have risen 9 percent with the Yeezy line, the company said. It reported a net loss of 24 million euros, a plunge from a profit of 310 million euros in the same period a year ago.

Operating profit, which excludes some items like taxes, was down to 60 million euros from 437 million euros a year earlier.

Meanwhile, Adidas is also facing a class-action lawsuit from investors who allege the company knew about offensive remarks and harmful behavior from Ye years before terminating its pact with him. Adidas has pushed back on the allegations made.

Still, Gulden reminded investors that the nine-year partnership between Adidas and Ye was “sensational.”

While he noted that Ye is a difficult person, “he’s the most creative person in our industry,” Gulden said. “He created a model with Adidas that was sought after around the world.” But he added, “We lost that in a month.”

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