Adidas may open old accounts to probe India irregularities

Last Updated: Mon, Aug 13, 2012 19:25 hrs

Adidas Group on Monday unveiled a three-pronged strategy in India that would include the possible closure of nearly a third of its 900 Reebok stores, a voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) for the 200-odd Reebok employees and integration of the two brands’ suppliers.

The German sportswear giant also said the financial irregularities discovered for financial year 2011 might have started much earlier and the company would not hesitate to open the accounts of previous years for investigation, if required.

Speaking for the first time after the group announced it had taken a hit of Rs 870 crore as a result of alleged financial irregularities committed in Reebok India in 2011, Claus Heckerott, managing director of Adidas, group-market India, said, “We are changing our model from a minimum guarantee scheme (rent plus model) offered to franchisees, which is not sustainable for a cash-and-carry model. One-third of the franchisees are ready to go with this model. The others are not sure or will not go. However, we’ll be happy with 300 outlets, provided they are profitable. We had started slowing down the opening of new stores from 2010.” The discovery of alleged financial irregularities led the company to sack former Reebok India managing director Subhinder Singh Prem and former chief operating officer Vishnu Bhagat.

Heckerott said a VRS scheme would be offered to all Reebok employees at generous terms. He said the terms would be much more attractive than market standards, without divulging the numbers. Asked why the offer was only to Reebok and not Adidas employees, Heckerott said, “Adidas is still running as a robust business and we are not expecting a big change there. However, in Reebok we had to take corrective action because of the financial irregularity. We want to make a fresh start in Reebok.” The company is planning to integrate suppliers, which would include manufacturers making products of both the brands to bring in economies of scale.

On a query why Adidas was unable to discover the alleged irregularities earlier despite having taken over the company in 2005, Heckerott said, “The irregularities could have gone on over a larger number of years. As those involved had criminal energy and a collusion system in place, the checks and balances were circumvented. The new Adidas CFO joined in September 2011 and only after that we realised there was a parallel set of records in place.”

The Adidas India boss admitted they had received queries from the government whether after the acquisition of Reebok they still fulfilled the rules of being a single-brand retail chain. “We have separate retail outlets for Adidas and Reebok, which only sell those brands and not the other. Also, all these stores are franchised,” he said.

More from Sify: