Two prominent U.S.-based Adidas executives are leaving at the same time, but an official of the company says the two events are completely unrelated. Jon Wexler, a 20-year veteran of the company who has been leading its Yeezy business unit since last November as vice president and general manager, left on Aug. 31, according to an internal memo reported in WWD. He previously held global responsibilities for entertainment and influencer marketing.
No reason was given for his departure, on which the group has been working for some time, according to an Adidas official. The internal memo said Wexler decided to quit Adidas “to pursue interests outside the company.” Adidas thanked him for the significant contribution that he has made to the company, including its “groundbreaking” collaborations with Beyoncé, Kanye West and Pharrell Williams. The Adidas official denied a suspicion that his departure may have been somehow connected with a reported unfulfilled desire by Kanye West to become a member of the Adidas Group’s board of directors in view of the huge revenues - reportedly amounting to some $1.5 billion a year - generated by the Yeezy brand. The famous American singer is the brand’s licensor and ambassador.
In an unrelated development on the same day, another 20-year veteran of the company, Paul Gaudio, saw his role as global creative director for the Adidas Group terminated with immediate effect, after six years in the post. In his case, the reason given by Adidas to Complex was an Instagram post by him that was interpreted as supporting Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old rightwing militant who was charged of murdering two people one week ago while they were protesting against police brutality in connection with the shooting of a black American, Jacob Blake.
Gaudio’s comment was probably meant to be mainly a form of criticism of a certain aspect of U.S. culture. His statement said that Rittenhouse “is also a victim here. He’s a kid, who raised him? Who taught him? Who gave him a gun? Not excusing him by any means…but the adults who radicalized him and enabled him should be punished.”
The police shooting of Jacob Blake revived the Black Lives Matter movement, as previously in the case of George Floyd’s murder. It led last Wednesday to a massive wildcat strike by many athletes and teams in the NBA, WNBA, MLB and NFL leagues. The boycott gained support from Adidas, Nike and Puma. It spilled over into politics with several companies in the industry pledging to give time off to their employees on Tuesday, Nov. 3 to vote in the upcoming presidential elections.
Patagonia co-founded a non-partisan “Time to Vote” organization whose members include Nike, VF Corp., Dick’s Sporting Goods, REI and other firms, mainly from the outdoor sector. The initiative is also backed by bigger companies like Walmart, Coca Cola, Starbucks and Uber.