Soriano: Sibling conflict: Unraveling the Adidas-Puma rivalry

Inside Family Business
(Enrique Soriano)
(Enrique Soriano)

Sibling bonds are the bedrock of family ties, enduring through generations and shaping the course of history. Yet, beneath the surface of shared experiences lies a tale of discord and rivalry that gave birth to two iconic brands: Adidas and Puma.

The story begins with Adolf “Adi” Dassler and Rudolf “Rudi” Dassler, brothers who co-founded the Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik in 1920s Germany. Their partnership was marked by innovation and success, but beneath the surface lurked simmering tensions that erupted into a bitter feud during World War II and its aftermath.

In 1948, the brothers parted ways, each founding their own sportswear empire: Adi established Adidas, while Rudi created Puma. This split not only divided a family but also gave rise to one of the most intense rivalries in the business world.

What drove these brothers apart? Personal and professional disputes certainly played a role, but at the heart of the conflict lay deep-seated resentment and a refusal to reconcile.

The rift was so profound that the brothers allegedly declared they should never be buried beside one another—a testament to the irreconcilable nature of their differences.

This familial feud transcended mere business competition, shaping the trajectory of Adidas and Puma and influencing local allegiances in their hometown of Herzogenaurach.

Founders/leader must resolve the conflict

But what lessons can business owners glean from this saga? Firstly, the importance of addressing conflicts head-on rather than allowing them to fester. Secondly, the need to cultivate a culture of collaboration and mutual respect within family businesses to prevent similar rifts from arising.

The Adidas-Puma rivalry serves as a stark reminder that unresolved conflicts can have far-reaching consequences, impacting not only familial relationships but also the success and longevity of businesses.

As business owners, it’s essential to recognize the real causes of conflict and take proactive steps to mitigate them. By fostering open communication, fostering a culture of reconciliation and prioritizing the long-term health of familial relationships, we can build businesses that thrive for generations to come.

In examining the Adidas-Puma case, it’s crucial to understand the profound impact of unresolved family conflicts on business dynamics. Beyond the initial split, the rivalry between the two sportswear giants continued to shape their strategies, marketing efforts and even product innovation. This competition, while driving growth and innovation in the sportswear industry, also came at a cost. Both companies poured significant resources into outdoing each other, diverting attention and investment away from other potential avenues of growth. Additionally, the intense rivalry often led to a zero-sum mindset, where success for one was perceived as a loss for the other, hindering opportunities for collaboration or mutual benefit.

Finally, the legacy of the Adidas-Puma feud extends beyond the confines of the sportswear industry, offering valuable insights into the broader dynamics of family businesses. It underscores the importance of succession planning and clear governance structures to mitigate the risks of familial conflicts derailing business operations. By establishing mechanisms for conflict resolution and fostering a culture of transparency and accountability, family businesses can navigate challenges more effectively and ensure the continuity of their legacies.

Ultimately, the story of Adidas and Puma serves as a powerful reminder of the delicate balance between familial ties and business interests and the need for proactive measures to preserve both.


Join us for The W+B Family Governance Leadership Series: Structure, Culture and Succession, and equip yourself with the tools and strategies to navigate the complexities of family business with clarity and purpose. Don’t let unresolved conflicts hold your business back—seize this opportunity to secure a lasting legacy. Secure your spot now.

Date: May 18 & 22 (Time: 9 a.m. - 12 p.m. Zoom), May 29, 2024 (Time 10 a.m. onwards Onsite Graduation). Price: P9,800 for the three-session pass and P3,800 for a one session pass. For inquiries, please reach out to Christine at


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