Top vs. flop: Günther Fielmann and Kasper Rorsted

For Kasper Rorsted, another difficult week comes to an end. A few days ago, the Adidas boss had to announce poor figures for the first quarter – and get shareholders in the mood for even worse results in the current quarter.

There is no doubt about it: Hardly any other manager has come under such public scrutiny during the Corona crisis. After Adidas announced that it was suspending rent payments despite its full coffers, a real shitstorm broke out over the Dane – a new experience for the 58-year-old who is used to success. At the latest since his aegis at Henkel, Kasper Rorsted has been considered an experienced manager who reliably ensures margins and returns. He can confidently be called the shareholders’ darling.

Applause from the capital market, criticism from the company – the Dane thus embodies a type of manager who finds it particularly difficult in the corona crisis. After all, it has long since ceased to be enough to satisfy investors, which Rorsted has managed to do in an exemplary manner. Since 2018, Adidas has bought back shares for almost two billion euros; dividends have also risen significantly. This year should continue in the same vein; it was only in the middle of the crisis that Rorsted withdrew from the plans.

Capitalism in the Corona era: “Shareholder first”?

The company was less squeamish with employees and business partners: Adidas implemented a rent moratorium and short-time working early on and also tapped into the stakeholder state – in the form of an emergency loan. One thing is certain: all measures are comprehensible and possibly vital for survival.

But the crisis management in Herzogenaurach leaves more than a bland aftertaste because the shareholders have been hammered for so long. The Corona crisis shows that shareholder-first strategies are explosive for society – and a business game of vabanque. Imagine if Adidas had built up a larger reserve for bad times instead of buying back shares (or investing the money in online trading).

We mean: The Rorsted case shows once again that share buybacks are usually a corporate oath of disclosure. And it highlights a fundamental problem of listed companies: Managers tend to build up too low reserves. This is also because they know that cash arouses desire – among company hunters, but also among aggressive shareholders.

Why boards of directors are in demand now

The Corona crisis therefore shows how important supervisory boards are that question such reflexes. And who, even better, engage boards of directors that Stakeholder Value Age understood.

Orientation is provided by family entrepreneurs where these principles are in the DNA. Günter Fielmann, for example, assured his employees in the Corona crisis that he would increase short-time working compensation to 100 per cent. Thanks to a high equity ratio, the company can still get through “several months”.

We are convinced that the employees will be grateful – and put their foot down after the crisis. Companies like Fielmann therefore have the best chances of emerging from these difficult times stronger than before. Adidas and Co., on the other hand, could take years to make up for the loss of confidence.


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