Thomas Rabe & Kasper Rorsted: Does the new Adidas tandem harmonize?

Thomas Rabe

Following the appointment of Thomas Rabe as Chairman of the Supervisory Board, different philosophies collide in Herzogenaurach. This holds potential for conflict – and the chance to learn from each other.

One of the most exciting personalities this summer was the election of Thomas Rabe (55) as Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Adidas: As planned, the Bertelsmann CEO replaced 76-year-old Igor Landau in August, who had previously served as Chief Controller for 16 years. A breath of fresh air was thus overdue, which is why the change is a good thing in our view for the time being.

On closer inspection, however, Rabe’s appeal raises questions. First of all, there is the fact that as CEO of a corporation he is very busy. Shareholders therefore fear that he has too little time for such a demanding mandate. We can understand these concerns.

Even more exciting, in our view, is the question of how Rabe and CEO Kasper Rorsted will harmonize. Thomas Rabe has worked for Bertelsmann for two decades and likes to quote Reinhard Mohn – a family entrepreneur who stands for long-term thinking, leadership in partnership and social responsibility (in other words, what we now call stakeholder value) like no other.

Favourite of the stock market

Kasper Rorsted, on the other hand, had worked in the USA for a long time and was already strongly oriented towards the capital market as head of Henkel. The Dane knows exactly what stock market players expect and has delivered reliably up to now.

But margins and returns are no longer the only criteria for success in the stakeholder value age. Rorsted’s recent mistakes, however, fuel the fear that he will have difficulty with this insight: Adidas had relied on rent moratoriums early on in the Corona crisis, which triggered fierce criticism (also because shareholders had been too hammered for years).

Thomas Rabe, Reinhard Mohn’s heir, is theoretically a good corrective: If things go well, the two will discuss with an open mind and learn from each other. If things go badly, on the other hand, unproductive skirmishes and power games are likely to ensue. We are curious.