Björn Gulden, an athlete in the offices
Being the architect of the renewal of Puma
He has been the last protagonist of the most historic battle in the sports fashion business, but those who know him say that his character is affable. Björn Gulden (Zürich, 1965) signed last November for Adidas as the new CEO after having held the same position at Puma for nine years and at a key moment for the brand with the three stripes, which is in low hours after a particularly difficult year. The two companies have a common history, since they were born from the divergences between their two founders, brothers: Adolf and Rudolf Dassler.
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Born in 1965, Gulden was a midfielder for the German soccer team Nürnberg and for the Norwegian teams Bryne and Strømsgodset, where he barely scored goals but also received no red or yellow cards. After leaving professional sports in the mid-1980s, the executive made the leap to the business world, where his career has stood out much more than in sports.
The executive abandoned his career as a professional athlete, but wanted to continue to be linked to sport. “I am a guy who likes to take responsibility, I have always been the captain of the team, and after my career I had to think about where I wanted to go, but one thing was certain: I wanted to remain linked to the sports field,” explained the executive in an interview in Catch up, Puma’s internal magazine. After completing his studies, the executive began working at Adidas, when “the job was more adventurous than today.” “In China, for example, there was no hotel, so when we visited we slept in factories for four weeks, it was very exciting,” he recalled as an executive in the same interview.
Married and fond of other sports such as golf, skiing or fishing, Gulden has led several companies in the fashion sector. during his trajectory. After working for Adidas for a few years, he went through other companies, until he was appointed CEO of Pandora, making the leap to another sector. The experience was not entirely positive, Gulden himself confessed: “I quickly realized that I lacked the emotional connection that I have with the sports industry.” During his career, Gulden was also president of Rack Room Shoes, held various positions of responsibility with the company outdoors Helly Hansen, and was CEO of the Deichmann shoe company.
Björn Gulden signed last November for Adidas as the new CEO
In 2013, the executive returned to sport, when he joined Puma as CEO. During his time at the helm of the German company, Gulden was responsible for turning Puma around with a change in strategy, moving from a more fashion-related approach, breaking the alliance with Rihanna, and returning to a sports career. focusing on the more professional and technical field, signing a million-dollar alliance with Neymar, the largest contract for a professional athlete.
After nine years at the helm, Gulden decided not to renew with the company. “It was the right time to leave, I still have a lot of energy and I want to continue for at least five to ten more years in an operational position, but I think it would be too much for Puma,” the manager explained in November after his departure. Shortly after, Adidas announced the signing of the executive, who joined the group on January 1 and took over from Kasper Rørsted, who announced in August that he would leave the group when a replacement was found for him. The stock market and investors supported his signing by Adidas.
On the day of the announcement, the shares of the German company rose 21%, exceeding 120 euros per share. According to analysts at Union Asset Investment, the manager is the “ideal” candidate for the position thanks to his experience in balancing the most technical product categories with fashion and his willingness to innovate and invest in new technologies. The manager “is a catalyst for investors to revisit the action,” said Adam Cochrane, an analyst at Deutsche Bank.
At Adidas, Gulden will be responsible for giving the sports fashion company a twist
The managerial style of the executive has also been endorsed on several occasions by his peers. After the signing of Gulden by Adidas, Per Bank, CEO of the Salling Group, of which the executive is a director, published a post on social media, noting that Gulden “has that rare combination of an immense set of strategic skills, in-depth knowledge and understanding of the industry, and on top of all that, he’s just a genuinely nice guy to be around.” Other professional colleagues, such as Dietmar Knoess, head of human resources at Puma, once shared that “Gulden’s style is easy to approach, reliable and uplifting.”
At Adidas, Gulden will be responsible for giving the sports fashion company a twistwhich has been going through a turbulent moment in recent months after breaking up with the controversial artist Kanye West and shrinking its sales and entering losses, weighed down by the closures in China.