Adidas will launch an investigation into allegations of wrongdoing against Kanye West after the company was accused of turning a blind eye to the artist’s inappropriate behavior during their Yeezy sneaker tie-up.
The decision to open an independent investigation was made public after one of Adidas’ largest shareholders demanded clarity on the alleged incidents.
Rolling Stone magazine reported this week that the American rapper and fashion designer, also known as Ye, played pornography for staff at meetings and showed an intimate photo of his ex-wife Kim Kardashian in job interviews, referring to former Adidas and Yeezy employees.
The sportswear brand cut ties with West last month over his anti-Semitic remarks, ending their lucrative partnership.
According to Rolling Stone, the former employees sent a letter to Adidas claiming that senior executives were aware of West’s “problematic behavior” but “turned off their moral compass” and failed to protect his employees from “years of verbal abuse, vulgar tirades and mob 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 taken 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 stake in the group and is a top-20 shareholder according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.
“Adidas must state when management and the 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 with West for years under the Yeezy brand. Analysts have estimated that it accounted for about 7 percent of its total revenue. The company said in October that killing Yeezy would cut its projected profits in half this year.
The German brand initially refused to comment on the reports on Wednesday. “We will not discuss private conversations, details or events leading to our decision to terminate the adidas Yeezy partnership and decline to comment on any related speculation,” the company said, adding that it has “been and continues to be active engaged in conversations with our employees about the events leading to our decision to end the partnership.”
Belgian investor GBL, which is Adidas’ largest single shareholder, and German asset manager Deka, which owns a 0.8 percent stake, declined to comment. Frankfurt-based asset manager DWS, which has a 1.8 percent stake, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.