Adidas to launch probe into claims about Kanye West playing pornography to staff

Adidas will launch an investigation into allegations of misconduct against Kanye West after the company was accused of turning a blind eye to the artist’s inappropriate behaviour during their Yeezy sneakers tie-up.

The decision to open an independent probe was announced after one of Adidas’ largest shareholders demanded clarity about the alleged incidents.

Rolling Stone magazine reported this week that the US rapper and fashion designer, also known as Ye, played pornography to staff in meetings and showed an intimate picture of his ex-wife Kim Kardashian in job interviews, citing former Adidas and Yeezy employees.

The sportswear brand cut its ties with West last month over his anti-Semitic remarks, ending their lucrative partnership.

According to Rolling Stone, the former employees sent a letter to Adidas claiming that senior managers were aware of West’s “problematic behaviour” but “turned their moral compass off” and failed to protect its employees against “years of verbal abuse, vulgar tirades, and bullying attacks.”

“It is currently not clear whether the accusations made in an anonymous letter are true,” Adidas said in a statement on Thursday. “However, we take these allegations very seriously and have taken the decision to launch an independent investigation of the matter immediately to address the allegations.”

Germany’s third largest asset manager, Union Investment, wrote to Adidas on Thursday asking for more information about the claims. It has a 1 per cent stake in the group and is a top-20 shareholder, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

“Adidas needs to disclose when the management and the supervisory board was first informed about the internal allegations,” Janne Werning, head of ESG Capital Markets & Stewardship at Union Investment, told the Financial Times.

Adidas developed and sold sneakers with West for years under the Yeezy brand. Analysts have estimated it accounted for around 7 per cent of its overall revenue. Adidas said in October that culling Yeezy would halve its expected profits this year.

The German brand initially refused to address the reports on Wednesday. “We will not discuss private conversations, details or events that lead to our decision to terminate the adidas Yeezy partnership and decline to comment on any related speculation,” the company said, adding that it has “been and continue to be actively engaged in conversations with our employees about the events that lead to our decision to end the partnership.”

Belgium investor GBL, which is Adidas’s single largest shareholder, and German asset manager Deka, which holds a 0.8 per cent stake, declined to comment. Frankfurt-based asset manager DWS, which holds a 1.8 per cent stake, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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