Who actually owned the Adidas brand?
Adi Dassler has finally found his place. Cast in bronze, he sits there, the founder of the Adidas company, his right arm casually resting on his thigh, his left hand holding a soccer shoe with a screwed-in stud. The life-size statue looked a bit lost for a long time, almost as if it was on the sidelines. At first, the bronze Adi sat lonely in the stands in the small company soccer stadium. Then he switched to a bench in the park, at least in front of the chairman's office window. Now he is the focus, in front of the arena.
This is the name of the building, which stands spectacularly on 67 sloping stilts and deliberately resembles a stadium from the outside. More than 2000 people find their jobs there. The arena is the largest and last structure in the "World of Sports", as they call Adidas' headquarters in Herzogenaurach.
"Adi looks exactly in the direction of where his villa is and where the Adidas factory used to be," says Christian Dzieia. The tall man in the Adidas T-shirt heads the global real estate management of the sporting goods group. Before he leads through the arena, he asks for the Walk of Fame. In the wide, red-colored path, footprints of many sports legends can be seen, left by immortal heroes in the Adidas cosmos - footballers like Lionel Messi and David Beckham, but also New Zealand's rugby player Jonah Lomu and marathon runner Haile Gebrselassie from Ethiopia. What does this whole company site mean for Adidas? "Here is our home, the origin, the core of the brand," says Dzieia, "our world."
Nothing is the same as it used to be. The bronze adi stands for the company's roots, its identity, its DNA. But the Adidas of today has little in common with the Adidas during Adi Dassler's lifetime, except the name. And nowhere is this more visible than here, at the World of Sports.
Adidas achieves sales of 22 billion euros, less than five percent of that in Germany
The Franconian, typically German family company with a patriarch at the helm has become a global organism in every respect, with more than 22 billion euros in sales, of which Adidas no longer generates five percent in Germany. Almost half of the 5600 employees at the headquarters in Herzogenaurach come from abroad, from more than 100 nations. CEO Kasper Rorsted is Dane, of the six board members only two are German. All six major cities in terms of trends, developments and sales that Adidas have declared "Key Cities" are scattered around the globe: New York, Los Angeles, London, Shanghai, Paris, Tokyo; none of them are in Germany.
As if through a magnifying glass, all of this is bundled together in the World of Sports - completed in time for the company's 70th birthday on August 18th - which Adidas has created for a billion euros over the past 25 years, on the edge and a little above Herzogenaurach. A spacious campus has emerged from a lot of green, with numerous sports facilities and modern architecture of world class. Like that shiny, black cuboid that cleverly and almost sunk into the site houses the brand center. Or the "halftime" with the many meeting rooms that are styled like gyms and changing rooms. In the "Laces" (in German "shoelace" because the office building looks like this from the air) alone 1700 people work.
Inside, the buildings are open, geared towards communication. Spacious areas with desks alternate with retreat areas. There are no longer any permanent jobs; everyone looks for a place within their department. The working hours are largely freely divisible, sport in between is encouraged. In the new main Arena building, Christian Dzieia leads up the 136 steps to the third floor, where the board members also have their workplaces. Here, too, everything is open and glazed.
Until 1992 there was a US barracks on the site, which was about 160 football fields. When the last GI left, a residential area was built on a smaller part of the site. The World of Sports gradually grew on the larger one. Next year, the German national soccer team will stay and train on the Adidas campus during the European championship.
First of all, Dominic Thiem is here. The huge LED wall in the foyer of the arena welcomes the world-class tennis professional from Austria. Adidas is his supplier and sponsor, so Thiem just came to talk to employees about the idols of his youth, motivation and sporting goals. It happens a lot; Just recently, Serge Gnabry from FC Bayern Munich was playing with Adidas people at the game console.
Adi Dassler also loved receiving prominent athletes who were connected to his company. He usually invited her to his home, to his villa a few minutes' drive from today's World of Sports in downtown Herzogenaurach. In the summer he preferred to sit on the terrace with his guests, and Käthe, Adi's wife, served coffee and cake. "Next to a vegetable garden there was a small meadow with two ice hockey goals," remembers Uwe Seeler in his autobiography, himself a football legend and later an Adidas sales representative. "No meeting went by without asking the guests of the house to have a soccer ball before dinner."
The villa is still standing. It is deserted, if not to say a bit rotten. The grass in the garden is rampant, the tennis court has long been unplayable. Until recently, the villa was part of the last Adidas location in the middle of Herzogenaurach, address: Adi-Dassler-Platz 1. In April, the last 1000 employees left here moved to the World of Sports. Adidas recently set up a fitness studio for employees where the company's founder once received the stars. But the kitchen equipment is still as it was in Käthe Dassler's time, they say.
Originally the whole Dassler family lived in the white house, shielded by conifers and bushes and hidden behind factory buildings; on the ground floor Adolf, nicknamed "Adi", and on the first floor his brother Rudolf, each with his wife and children. And at the top the parents. As is well known, the brothers fell out and became bitter rivals, which is still tasty material for feature films, documentaries, books and articles to this day.
In 1948 they shared their Dassler brothers sports shoe factory and all of its assets. Your employees were allowed to vote. 47 stayed with Adi, who was said to be a brilliant inventor. 13 decided on Rudolf, the marketing and sales genius. Rudolf founded Puma, his brother followed suit with Adidas. And from then on, little Herzogenaurach was split into an Adidas and a Puma warehouse.
Adi, a trained baker and only with a second apprenticeship as a shoemaker, kept the family villa. It was only a few steps from here across the yard to the factory, where sports shoes were cobbled until 1989. By then, Käthe Dassler had been dead for almost five years and Adi had been dead for eleven years. He had left his family the largest sporting goods manufacturer in the world, which, however, was now slipping into an existential crisis.
In 1987, two years before his mother's death, Horst Dassler, Adolf and Käthe's son, died. Now there was no successor in the family. Horst's sisters sold the company. Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, sports shoes and clothing could no longer be manufactured in Germany at competitive costs. So production was relocated to low-wage countries, and thousands also lost their jobs at Adidas. In 1993 the former family business became a listed company.
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