Meet the new CEO of Adi­das, by Sven Af­hüp­pe and Gri­scha Bo­wer-Ra­bi­no­witsch.

Handelsblatt Global Edition Magazine - - Table Of Contents - BY SVEN AF­HÜP­PE AND GRI­SCHA BROWER-RA­BI­NO­WITSCH

Adi­das sha­res ro­cke­ted 9 per­cent af­ter the sports­we­ar ma­ker ap­poin­ted Kas­per Ror­sted as its new CEO. He spo­ke with Han­dels­blatt short­ly af­ter the an­noun­ce­ment.

If Adi­das ga­ve its new­ly-na­med CEO Kas­par Ror­sted a si­gning bo­nus, he was worth it. On news of Ror­sted’s ap­point­ment, the sports­we­ar ma­ker’s mar­ket cap ro­se by €1.7 bil­li­on. His cur­rent em­ploy­er, Dus­sel­dorf­ba­sed con­su­mer-goods con­glo­me­ra­te Hen­kel, was less amu­sed. The com­pa­ny’s sha­res tan­ked af­ter the an­noun­ce­ment, kno­cking ne­ar­ly €800 mil­li­on off Hen­kel’s mar­ket ca­pi­ta­liza­t­i­on.

In­ves­tors ho­pe that Adi­das — which has lost mar­ket sha­re to ri­val Ni­ke in re­cent ye­ars — will get a bet­ter sen­se of di­rec­tion un­der Ror­sted, who co­mes with an im­pres­si­ve track re­cord as CEO of Hen­kel, who­se sha­re pri­ce has tri­pled du­ring his tenu­re. In his first in­ter­view sin­ce the news of his ap­point­ment, he talks to Han­dels­blatt about his switch to Adi­das, the glo­bal out­look for con­su­mer brands, and the les­sons he’s lear­ned as a CEO.

Han­dels­blatt: Mr. Ror­sted, a lot of people are worried about the glo­bal eco­no­my slo­wing down, es­pe­cial­ly Chi­na. Are the pro­fits of Ger­man com­pa­nies li­ke yours too de­pen­dent on Chi­na? Ror­sted: Ab­so­lu­te­ly not. Less than 10 per­cent of [Hen­kel’s] tur­no­ver co­mes from Chi­na. And any­way, I’m op­ti­mis­tic. Chi­na is chan­ging from a pu­re­ly in­dus­tri­al so­cie­ty to one ba­sed on both in­dus­try and ser­vices and that’s a good thing. I ex­pect in th­ree or four ye­ars, we’ll ha­ve sub­stan­ti­al­ly hig­her Chi­ne­se tur­no­ver than we do now. We are not chan­ging our long term in­vest­ment plans in Chi­na. And not in Rus­sia eit­her, by the way.

What about Eu­ro­pe?

Eu­ro­pe will con­ti­nue to ha­ve dif­fi­cul­ties. Eu­ro­pe has be­en in cri­sis mo­re or less the who­le ti­me sin­ce 2008. A lot of pro­blems are just not being sol­ved. Struc­tu­ral re­forms ha­ve not be­en tack­led. Greece is still a long way from sustainable re­form. And un­for­t­u­n­a­te­ly, the­re are al­so the pro­blems in Rus­sia and Ukrai­ne. It co­mes down to this: In Eu­ro­pe, for va­rious re­a­sons, we ha­ve be­en un­able to sol­ve a num­ber of fun­da­men­tal pro­blems. And now, we ha­ve the re­fu­gees on top of that. In its­elf, it wouldn’t be such a pro­blem. It is the ac­cu­mu­la­ti­on of pro­blems which is ma­king things dif­fi­cult.

Af­ter eight ye­ars as CEO of Hen­kel, you’re lea­ving for the top job at Adi­das. Any spe­cial rea­son for the ti­ming?

[At Hen­kel] we are about to start a new stra­te­gy cy­cle, and that would me­an stay­ing for ano­ther fi­ve ye­ars to im­ple­ment the stra­te­gy. And I al­so think a CEO shouldn’t run any com­pa­ny for too long. So for me, it was just the right ti­me.

From suds to snea­kers: Kas­par Ror­sted lea­ves Hen­kel for Adi­das.

Why Adi­das?

Sport is my gre­at pas­si­on, that’s al­ways be­en cle­ar. Adi­das is a fan­tas­tic brand, with a lot of con­nec­tions to my own li­fe. My first hand­ball shoes when I was a kid we­re Adi­das. The mo­del was cal­led Me­xi­ca­na. To be suc­cess­ful as a ma­na­ger, you should eit­her co­me in with a pas­si­on for the com­pa­ny or you should de­ve­lop one.

What are your plans for Adi­das?

The CEO the­re is still Her­bert Hai­ner. On­ce I start at Adi­das in Oc­to­ber, I’ll be hap­py to an­s­wer all your qu­es­ti­ons.

Adi­das is a pu­b­lic com­pa­ny, at Hen­kel the main ow­ner is a fa­mi­ly. Does fa­mi­ly ow­nership ma­ke it ea­sier or har­der for a CEO?

From my po­int of view, it is enor­mous­ly hel­pful, be­cau­se we know that we can’t be ta­ken over. And in terms of de­ci­si­on ma­king, it is ve­ry use­ful to ha­ve the ma­jo­ri­ty of share­hol­ders sit­ting the­re at the ta­ble, so you can know what they think.

You ar­ri­ved at this Ger­man fa­mi­ly com­pa­ny from a mo­re Ame­ri­can-style cor­po­ra­te cul­tu­re. How was the clash of cul­tu­res?

Every share­hol­der has li­mits to their pa­ti­ence. It’s the sa­me for the fa­mi­ly. They will lo­se pa­ti­ence if the com­pa­ny doe­sn’t do well long-term. They ha­ve a long-term view and I brought my fo­cus on per­for­mance. The com­bi­na­ti­on didn’t hurt the com­pa­ny.

Does Ger­man in­dus­try ha­ve the strength and pas­si­on to suc­ceed in the di­gi­tal eco­no­my?

Yes, ab­so­lu­te­ly. Ger­ma­ny is well on its way, es­pe­cial­ly in en­gi­nee­ring, though we’re worse at sel­ling our­sel­ves be­cau­se we’re a na­ti­on of en­gi­neers. But it won’t hap­pen over­night. Di­gi­ta­liza­t­i­on of in­dus­tri­al pro­ces­ses and equip­ment will ta­ke a long ti­me and a lot of in­vest­ment.

Eu­ro­peans al­ways see a th­re­at whe­re Ame­ri­cans see an op­por­tu­ni­ty. We’re al­re­a­dy re­gu­la­ting wi­thout even kno­wing why.

Does Si­li­con­Val­ley ha­ve a per­ma­nent edge over Eu­ro­pe?

The Ame­ri­cans ha­ve a ba­sic com­pe­ti­ti­ve ad­van­ta­ge be­cau­se of Si­li­con Val­ley. Ber­lin has ma­de hu­ge pro­gress — the­re is no ot­her Eu­ro­pean ca­pi­tal which has as good a po­si­ti­on as Ber­lin, not even Lon­don. But we ha­ve to ma­ke su­re that we’re all net­wor­ked in Si­li­con Val­ley. Thank­ful­ly, a lot of Ger­man com­pa­nies are on the ground in Ame­ri­ca.

Why is Eu­ro­pe at such a di­sad­van­ta­ge?

The Ame­ri­cans ha­ve a much mo­re li­be­ral out­look when it co­mes to in­no­va­ti­on. Ta­ke Uber, for ex­amp­le. In Ame­ri­ca, it’s le­a­ping from suc­cess to suc­cess. He­re in Eu­ro­pe, we’re try­ing to ban it. We al­ways see a th­re­at whe­re Ame­ri­cans see an op­por­tu­ni­ty and a bu­si­ness. We’re al­re­a­dy re­gu­la­ting wi­thout kno­wing why we’re even re­gu­la­ting, whe­re a bu­si­ness might de­ve­lop.

What are you most proud of as you lea­ve Hen­kel for Adi­das?

We’ve put to­ge­ther a re­al­ly good team. For ex­amp­le, our su­per­vi­so­ry bo­ard could im­me­dia­te­ly na­me a suc­ces­sor. One of my key go­als [when I be­ca­me CEO at Hen­kel] was to ma­ke the ma­nage­ment team mo­re com­pe­ti­ti­ve and mo­re in­ter­na­tio­nal. And we’ve do­ne that.

So hi­ring po­li­cy is the key fac­tor for you?

Ab­so­lu­te­ly. It has to be on the agen­da from Day 1. It is one of the most im­portant tasks fa­c­ing the CEO and the chair­man of the bo­ard. Tho­se two ha­ve to ma­ke su­re you aren’t forced to ma­ke off-the-cuff de­ci­si­ons. It is a long-term, stra­te­gic task. I ho­pe I’m the last outs­ide ma­na­ger to ha­ve ever joi­ned Hen­kel‘s ma­nage­ment bo­ard.

Adi­das has lost ground to ri­val Ni­ke as well as ne­wer up­starts li­ke Bal­ti­more-ba­sed Un­der Ar­mour.

Sven Af­hüp­pe is Han­dels­blatt’s edi­tor in chief. Gri­scha Brower-Ra­bi­no­witsch is the pa­per’s com­pa­ny and mar­kets edi­tor.

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