Adidas is launching an investigation into allegations of misconduct against Kanye West after the company was accused of turning a blind eye to the artist’s inappropriate behavior while tying up their Yeezy sneakers.
The decision to open an independent investigation was announced after one of Adidas’ largest shareholders demanded clarity about the alleged incidents.
Rolling Stone magazine reported this week that the American rapper and fashion designer, also known as Ye, played pornography for staff during meetings and showed an intimate image of his ex-wife Kim Kardashian in job interviews, citing former employees of Adidas and Yeezy.
The sportswear brand cut ties with West last month over his anti-Semitic remarks and ended their lucrative partnership.
According to Rolling Stone, the former employees sent a letter to Adidas claiming senior managers knew about West’s “problematic behavior” but “turned off their moral compass” and failed to protect their employees from “years of verbal abuse, vulgar tirades and bullying attacks.”
“It is currently not clear whether the allegations in an anonymous letter are true,” Adidas said in a statement on Thursday. “However, we take these allegations very seriously and have made the decision to immediately launch an independent investigation into the matter to address the allegations.”
Germany’s third-largest asset manager, Union Investment, wrote to Adidas on Thursday asking for more information about the claims. It has a 1 percent interest in the group and is a top-20 shareholder according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.
“Adidas must disclose when management and the supervisory board were first informed of the internal allegations,” Janne Werning, head of ESG Capital Markets & Stewardship at Union Investment, told the Financial Times.
Adidas developed and sold sneakers under the Yeezy brand together with West for many years. Analysts estimate it accounted for about 7 percent of total sales. Adidas said in October that clearing Yeezy would cut its projected profit in half this year.
The German brand initially refused to comment on the messages on Wednesday. “We will not discuss private conversations, details or events leading up to our decision to terminate the adidas Yeezy partnership and we decline to comment on related speculation,” the company said, adding that it was and continues to be “actively involved in conversations”. with our employees about the events leading up to our decision to end the collaboration.”
Belgian investor GBL, Adidas’ largest shareholder, and German asset manager Deka, which has a 0.8 percent stake, declined to comment. Frankfurt-based asset manager DWS, which holds a 1.8 percent stake, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.