Adidas ends Ye deal over hate speech, costing rapper his billionaire status

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Singer Kanye West walks past models after presenting his Fall/Winter 2015 partnership line with Adidas at New York Fashion Week

By Uday Sampath Kumar

(Reuters) -Adidas AG terminated its partnership with rapper and fashion designer Ye on Tuesday after he made a series of antisemitic remarks, a move that knocked the musician off the Forbes list of the world’s billionaires.

Adidas put the tie-up, which has produced several hot-selling Yeezy branded sneakers, under review this month.

“Adidas does not tolerate antisemitism and any other sort of hate speech,” the German company said on Tuesday.

“Ye’s recent comments and actions have been unacceptable, hateful and dangerous, and they violate the company’s values of diversity and inclusion, mutual respect and fairness,” it said.

Forbes magazine said the end of the deal meant Ye’s net worth shrank to $400 million. The magazine had valued his share of the Adidas partnership at $1.5 billion.

The remainder of Ye’s wealth comes from real estate, cash, his music catalogue and a 5% stake in ex-wife Kim Kardashian’s shapewear firm, Skims, Forbes said.

Representatives for Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

For Adidas, ending the partnership and the production of Yeezy branded products, as well as stopping all payments to Ye and his companies, will have a “short-term negative impact” of up to 250 million euros ($248.90 million) on net income this year, the company said.

Ye has courted controversy in recent months by publicly ending major corporate tie-ups and making outbursts on social media against other celebrities. His Twitter and Instagram accounts were restricted, with the social media platforms removing some of his online posts that users condemned as antisemitic.

In now-deleted Instagram posts earlier this year, the multiple Grammy award-winning artist accused Adidas and U.S. apparel retailer Gap Inc of failing to build contractually promised permanent stores for products from his Yeezy fashion line.

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He also accused Adidas of stealing his designs for its own products.

On Tuesday, Gap, which had ended its partnership with Ye in September, said it was taking immediate steps to remove Yeezy Gap products from its stores and that it had shut down YeezyGap.com.

“Antisemitism, racism and hate in any form are inexcusable and not tolerated in accordance with our values,” Gap said in a statement.

European fashion house Balenciaga has also cut ties with Ye, according to media reports.

“The saga of Ye … underlines the importance of vetting celebrities thoroughly and avoiding those who are overly controversial or unstable,” said Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData.

Adidas poached Ye from rival Nike Inc in 2013 and agreed to a new long-term partnership in 2016 in what the company then called “the most significant partnership created between a non-athlete and a sports brand.”

The tie-up helped the German brand close the gap with Nike in the U.S. market.

Yeezy sneakers, which cost between $200 and $700, generate about 1.5 billion euros ($1.47 billion) in annual sales for Adidas, making up a little over 7% of its total revenue, according to estimates from Telsey Advisory Group.

Shares in Adidas, which cut its full-year forecast last week, closed down 3.2%. The group said it would provide more information as part of its upcoming Q3 earnings announcement on Nov. 9.

($1 = 1.0044 euros)

(Reporting by Mrinmay Dey, Uday Sampath and Aishwarya Venugopal in Bengaluru and Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles; Editing by Tomasz Janowski, Sriraj Kalluvila, Bernadette Baum, Anil D’Silva and Cynthia Osterman)

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