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Kasper Rørsted, CEO, Adidas AG

Making Europe Fit for the Future

Kasper Rørsted is the Chief Executive of Adidas Group. Taking on the role in October 2016, Rørsted is charged with reinvigorating Reebok as well as continuing his track record of boosting revenue and improving margins at Adidas, as achieved with some of Europe’s biggest consumer goods groups

The Danish-born executive studied at the International Business School in Copenhagen before completing a series of executive programmes at Harvard Business School. During high school, Rørsted played handball for Denmark’s national youth team.

Kasper Rørsted was 42 years old when he was fired from Hewlett-Packard in 2004. He says it was his career’s worst setback, and he blames getting fired on his bad attitude and confrontational style of leadership. The experience was humbling, and he takes a more constructive approach today, which he thinks is better for everyone.

From that failure, he eventually gained his career’s most important lesson: To have a more humble approach with regards to organizational change.

Later on, he said “The word ‘collaboration’ conjures images of being kind, helpful and considerate to others, appreciating other people’s contributions and building on them; basically, being a good leader and a team member, but it’s only half the truth. Collaboration in a leadership context also has a hard edge: putting the needs of others ahead of your own even if your own target is compromised.”

“Most teams might not be ready to talk about this side of collaboration and the corresponding behaviours. It requires a certain level of discipline and grit from leaders. But if you learn to combine the soft and hard facets of collaboration, an essential skill for a balanced leadership style, you’ll build productive, lasting business relationships,” Rørsted added.

He started his career in sales and marketing at the US high-tech companies Digital Equipment and Oracle, the first having been acquired by Compaq in 1998. From 1995 Kasper held different international management positions at Compaq and from 2001 was responsible as general manager for the company’s Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA) business.

The word ‘collaboration’ conjures images of being kind, helpful and considerate to others, appreciating other people’s contributions and building on them; basically, being a good leader and a team member, but it’s only half the truth

In 2002 Compaq was merged with Hewlett Packard. Before Kasper left the company, where he last headed the EMEA business with more than 40,000 employees and sales of about 20 billion euros.

In April 2005 Kasper joined consumer good giant Henkel as Executive Vice President Human Resources, Purchasing, Information Technologies and Infrastructure Services. From April 2007 Rorsted was Vice Chairman of the Henkel Management Board.

In January 2016, it was announced that adidas AG, a German sportswear company, had appointed Kasper to its executive board, effective 1 August 2016, and as its chief executive officer, effective 1 October 2016, at which time Kasper will stand down as Chief Executive Officer of Henkel.

Kasper Rørsted Adidas

According to the Financial Times, when his departure from chemical and consumer goods company Henkel was announced, shares in the German group lost almost $1.2 billion from their market value, while Adidas gained a similar amount.

“Kasper Rørsted is the perfect candidate to succeed Herbert Hainer as CEO of adidas AG, who led the German footwear giant for 15 years” said Igor Landau, Chairman of the supervisory board of Adidas in a statement at the time. “He has extensive international management experience, having held positions with high-calibre companies such as Oracle, Compaq and Hewlett Packard.”

In an interview with CNBC in 2017, Rørsted made clear his intention to focus largely on digital marketing at Adidas. “All of our engagement with the consumer is through digital media and we believe in the next three years we can take our online business from approximately €1 billion to €4 billion and create much more direct engagement with consumers,” he said.

Kasper Rørsted also opened up about his priorities with Adidas: to quadruple e-commerce revenues by 2020, challenge Nike in the United States, and get more women to join the company’s male-dominated management team.

It is time to move the single European market on into the digital age. Digitalization is a great opportunity for Europe. As one of the megatrends of our time, it promotes the cross-border exchange between our countries and citizens and brings us all closer together across Europe

“You and your team are part of a bigger ecosystem with a shared goal. If you watch small kids play football, you’ll notice they are all chasing the ball at the same time. The game tends to be slow. The kids aren’t playing their positions – they’re playing the ball, and having fun,” Rørsted explained

“Watch a national team play at the World Cup and you’ll notice each player stays in position, knows their role, and is constantly aware of their teammates. If they don’t, the manager will make the decision to substitute them so the goal isn’t compromised. When you’re clear on the roles and responsibilities of each team member, all you have to do is stick to the plan. Trust your players to know their roles, master their own position, and follow the game plan,” he said. “Tough issues will arise – it’s only a question of when. The stronger the relationship, the easier it is for a leader to have challenging conversations with the team. It won’t change the rules of the game: Everyone will play as one team to reach one goal,” Rørsted said.

Since assuming the role in 2016, Rørsted has overseen significant sales growth in the North American region. Much of the success has come under the leadership of Kasper Rorsted, who has rallied the adidas US team to produce more hot product, pump up tech and capitalize on relationships with celebrities and influencers.

Kasper Rørsted Adidas

“We were the first to combine pop culture and sports. Second, [we have] a relentless focus on driving innovation into our product. And third is integrating sustainability into our business model like no one has ever done before,” said Rørsted. “We sign athletes on how they perform first and foremost. What’s important to us is that the athletes with whom we engage are in accordance with our company. I cannot foresee us signing somebody who is, for example, a deliberate racist, because that is a contradiction of what we stand for. If people were inappropriate, we would cancel contracts.”

Rørsted thinks that Europe needs a clear roadmap for a competitive digital internal market.

“Instead of further weakening the EU, we should strengthen it and initiate ideas and measures to make Europe fit for the future”, writes Kasper Rorsted, CEO Adidas, in one of his essays. “How our continent finds new strength? It is time to move the single European market on into the digital age. Digitalization is a great opportunity for Europe. As one of the megatrends of our time, it promotes the cross-border exchange between our countries and citizens and brings us all closer together across Europe.”

“Digitalization is changing all industries. It is not just an industry, but a phenomenon that is permeating the entire economy and society. This development will change the entire value chain – from production through to distribution,” said CEO Adidas

As the Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Executive Board of adidas AG, the total compensation of Kasper Rorsted at adidas AG is $8,163,740. There are no executives at adidas AG getting paid more.

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