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Adidas confirms it is terminating its Kanye West partnership with immediate effect

By | Published on Wednesday 26 October 2022

Kanye West

As expected, Adidas yesterday formally cut its ties with Kanye West, announcing it was ending production of all the Yeezy branded products it has made via its partnership with the rapper.

West’s relationships with some of his business partners in the fashion domain were already deteriorating before his recent spate of controversial and anti-semitic statements.

Adidas, which has been working with West since 2013 – with the first trainers under the Adidas Yeezy brand being launched in 2015 – announced it was reviewing its long-standing partnership with the rapper earlier this month.

The sportswear firm’s current deal with West was reportedly due to run through to 2026, but yesterday it confirmed it was terminating the partnership with immediate effect. This follows West’s recent claim in a controversial Drink Champs interview that “I can say antisemitic things and Adidas can’t drop me”.

“Adidas does not tolerate antisemitism and any other sort of hate speech”, the company said in a statement. “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”.

“After a thorough review”, it went on, “the company has taken the decision to terminate the partnership with Ye immediately, end production of Yeezy branded products and stop all payments to Ye and his companies. Adidas will stop the Adidas Yeezy business with immediate effect”.

The Adidas Yeezy venture was very profitable for both the sportswear brand and the rapper, and as a result the decision to abruptly end the partnership will have a sizeable impact on Adidas, in the short term at least.

Its statement concluded yesterday: “This [decision] is expected to have a short-term negative impact of up to 250 million euros on the company’s net income in 2022 given the high seasonality of the fourth quarter. Adidas is the sole owner of all design rights to existing products as well as previous and new colorways under the partnership. More information will be given as part of the company’s upcoming quarterly earnings announcement on 9 Nov”.

The end of the Adidas Yeezy alliance will also be costly for West as well, of course. Indeed, according to Forbes, which likes to monitor these things, it will lose the rapper his status as a billionaire. Meanwhile, with so many corporates keen to distance themselves from West at the moment, his rumoured ambitions to launch his own fashion retail chain might be hard to achieve.

Back in the music industry, both Universal Music and Sony Music have been keen to play down their respective connections with West, stressing that they are no longer working with the rapper on new music projects, their previous deals having ended in the last year or so.

West previously worked with Universal’s Def Jam division on his own music and his Good Music label, and also had a tie up with the major’s merchandise business Bravado. However, Def Jam was not involved in the release of West’s most recent album ‘Donda 2’.

A spokesperson for Universal Music told Billboard: “Def Jam’s relationship with Ye as a recording artist, Def Jam’s partnership with the Good Music label venture and Ye’s merchandise agreement with Bravado all ended in 2021. There is no place for antisemitism in our society. We are deeply committed to combating antisemitism and every other form of prejudice”.

Meanwhile, Sony Music Publishing has stressed internally that its most recent deal with West expired earlier this year. It does still administer the songs published under that deal though and – according to the terms of the deal – will continue to do so for a certain time period.

However, it’s been confirmed that Sony is only the administrator and not the owner of those copyrights, which means it was possibly West himself who was recently trying to sell his songs catalogue, despite his denial of those rumours.

According to Billboard, in an internal memo to employees, Sony stated: “At Sony Music Group, commitment to tolerance, inclusion and equality for all are at the heart of who we are as a company. Consistent with these values, we denounce antisemitism. Through our partnership with the UJA Federation, we work to combat prejudice against the Jewish community”.

Of course, music released and published by Universal and Sony continues to earn money for both the rapper and his former business partners – and, so far, the various West controversies don’t seem to have had much of a negative impact on how much his tracks are streamed.

Despite most music companies being keen to distance themselves from West and his recent remarks at the moment, many in the music industry would likely see any proposal that the rapper’s musical output be taken offline as a step too far. Instead, leave it to the fans to decide whether West’s controversial statements are grounds for not listening to his music any more.

Any active censorship or consumer-led slump in listening of West’s music would also obviously impact on the many other artists and producers who have collaborated with the rapper over the years. Though one long-time collaborator of West’s – audio and mixing engineer Andrew Dawson – has announced that he plans to make donations from his royalties to organisations that support the groups and communities that the rapper has targeted in his recent statements.

Although not specifically mentioning the West controversies, Dawson wrote on Instagram: “I have a resumé I am proud of that represents decades of supporting the voices, visions, and creativity of talented artists. However, recent events compel me to be a supporter of more important voices at this time”.

He added: “To support those voices, I will be making donations from my royalties to the ADL, NAACP, as well as Jewish and civil rights organisations. Two donations have already been made”.