Footwear and apparel giant Adidas begrudgingly ditched celebrity partner Kanye West after he let loose with antisemitic remarks in interview after interview. Investors claim that the company was well-aware of this liability for years, and did nothing to prepare for or mitigate it becoming widely known.
West is not party to the lawsuit. The rapper designed a line of hugely successful trainers under the Yeezy brand for Adidas. Since then, Adidas admitted that it could lose up to €700m (£619m) after being left with hundreds of millions of euros worth of unsold Yeezy products. Last October, when the company ended the collaboration, it said: "Adidas does not tolerate antisemitism and any other sort of hate speech. "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." However, investors who filed the lawsuit in the US against the company on Friday claim that Adidas knew about other questionable behaviour by West, alleging that it was discussed by former chief executive Kasper Rorsted as well as other management.
As a media moment, it was sudden and spectacular. Behind the scenes, it was the inconveniently visible tip of an iceberg they all constantly navigated around and hoped would never surface.