The fall of Kanye West’s billion-dollar empire: Adidas and Gap are cutting ties, the divorce battle with Kim Kardashian rages on, and J.P. Morgan are even closing his bank accounts

Will Adidas drop Kanye West for his anti-Semitic comments? Their relationship is “under review”. Photo: Getty Images
After one of the ugliest months of his career, Kanye West’s long list of business partners again face a choice – stick with him, knowing at any moment he could launch into a hateful tirade against anyone from his soon-to-be-ex-wife’s new boyfriend to Jewish people at large – or finally cut ties with the music superstar.
Donald John Trump and Ye, formerly known as “Kanye West”. Photo: @donyetrest/ Instagram
The rapper, 45, who now goes by Ye, has teamed up with some of the biggest global firms in music, fashion and technology over his career – Apple, Adidas, Def Jam, CAA and Gap among them. Even after years of flirting with extreme right-wing politics, including endorsing and meeting with former US President Donald Trump, he remained an in-demand collaborator.
Ye’s ties are getting cut off, one by one, from Gap to Adidas. Photo: @Complex/Twitter

In the past, Ye’s outbursts were often excused, in part, because of his struggle with bipolar disorder. But his recent actions have become more impossible to defend or overlook, and some brands like Adidas have begun to pull away.

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West’s wife Kim Kardashian filed for divorce

Reality TV star Kim Kardashian has filed for divorce from rapper Kanye West after almost seven years of marriage. Photo: AFP

West’s wife Kim Kardashian filed for divorce in 2021, prompting West to publicly lash out against her and her family. West threatened her then-boyfriend Pete Davidson with a mock murder in the music video for his song with The Game, “Eazy”, released in January 2022. Naturally controversy ensued: The Grammys cancelled his planned performance during the April ceremony, citing “concerning online behaviour”. Kid Cudi, his long-time friend and collaborator, also cut ties with West this year, saying, “It’s gonna take a ... miracle for me and that man to be friends again.”

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Accusations of hate speech are mounting up

Candace Owens and Kanye West at Paris Fashion Week. Photo: @RealCandaceO/Twitter

In the past few weeks, West’s behaviour fully unravelled. At his YZY runway show during Paris Fashion Week, he posed next to far-right political commentator Candace Owens wearing a “White Lives Matter” shirt – a slogan popularised by fascist and neo-Nazi groups.

After facing wide criticism, he posted that he’s going to “Go death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE”, which prompted Instagram and later Twitter to pull the plug on his accounts. He then went on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show, where he made further offensive remarks widely condemned as anti-Semitic, and claimed conspiracies around the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, among other falsehoods.

Even right-wing flame-thrower Carlson had to edit out irrational ramblings from West’s two-part appearance on his show. Vice published leaked footage in which West claimed that Planned Parenthood was founded “to control the Jew population. … When I say Jew, I mean the 12 lost tribes of Judah, the blood of Christ, who the people known as the race Black really are. This is who our people are. The blood of Christ. This, as a Christian, is my belief.”

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Ye has had his fair share of criticisms. Photo: YouTube

Ye’s recent appearance on HBO’s The Shop: Uninterrupted, which moved to YouTube this year, was pulled, according to the CEO of the company producing the series, Maverick Carter.

Ye’s outbursts were often excused in the past due to his bipolar disorder. Photo: Reuters

Carter told Andscape: “I believed he was capable of a respectful discussion and he was ready to address all his recent comments. Unfortunately, he used The Shop to reiterate more hate speech and extremely dangerous stereotypes. We have made the decision not to air this episode or any of Kanye’s remarks.”

Kanye West seems to be spouting a lot of hate speech these days. Photo: YouTube

West then reiterated those beliefs on the popular podcast Drink Champs, where he said, “Jewish people have owned the black voice … Paparazzi taking a photo of you, you ain’t getting no money off of it. You’re used to getting screwed by the Jewish media.”

On the podcast, West also claimed, falsely, that George Floyd died from a fentanyl overdose, when he was in fact suffocated by a police officer. Floyd’s family lawyer Lee Merritt said on Twitter, “While one cannot defame the dead, the family of George Floyd is considering suit for Kanye’s false statements about the manner of his death.”

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The brands that dumped Ye

West’s Adidas Yeezy Boost was honoured as shoe of the year at the Footwear News Achievement Awards in Dec 2015. Photo: AP

Adidas, which produces West’s popular Yeezy shoe line, said in a statement last week that in light of his recent outbursts, “After repeated efforts to privately resolve the situation, we have taken the decision to place the partnership under review.”

West responded on Instagram, writing “F*** Adidas I AM Adidas. Adidas RAPED AND STOLE MY DESIGNS.

Kanye West in his Yeezy shoes. Photo: @yeezymafia/Instagram

In September, West ended his collaboration with clothing retailer Gap, citing distribution and retail issues. Gap chief executive Mark Breitbard wrote in a company memo, “While we share a vision of bringing high-quality, trend-forward, utilitarian design to all people through unique omni experiences with Yeezy Gap, how we work together to deliver this vision is not aligned.”

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Kanye West gestures to the audience at the unveiling of the Yeezy collection and his album, The Life of Pablo, in 2016 at Madison Square Garden in New York. Photo: AP

Big brands recognise that creative minds like Ye’s can sometimes be unpredictable or problematic. But companies will struggle to justify partnering with him again after his recent outbursts, according to Americus Reed, a professor of marketing at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

“This kind of thing is the death knell for celebrity sponsorship,” Reed said. “Celebrities aren’t paid to speak their mind, they’re paid to uphold the brand and they’re paid not to compromise the brand.”

West keeps cancelling big gigs

Kanye West performs at the Brit Awards in London in 2006. Photo: Reuters

To be sure, West remains a considerable force in pop music, but his A-list status as a live act may be teetering. He cancelled headline gigs at two festivals this year – the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival and Rolling Loud Miami – at the last minute, leaving promoters just days to secure a new top act.

Kanye West cancelled headline gigs at the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival and Rolling Loud Miami festival at the last minute this year. Photo: AFP

CAA, which currently represents West with regard to touring, declined to comment on its current relationship with the artist. Nicholas Gravante, West’s lawyer, did not return requests for comment about their current working relationship. Representatives for AEG Presents, Coachella’s parent company, and Live Nation declined to comment about West.

Kanye West appears at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party in Beverly Hills, California in February 2020. Photo: AP

Meanwhile, it remains unclear who will release West’s next album. A source familiar with his deal with long-time label Def Jam said that he has fulfilled the terms of his recording contract, leaving him a free agent. Despite his string of 10 consecutive No 1 albums, it’s uncertain whether a major recording company, some of which are publicly traded, would take on the baggage that West brings.

West still has some outlaw cachet in the high fashion world

Ye attends the Givenchy Spring/Summer 2022 fashion show during the Paris Womenswear Fashion Week in October 2022. Photo: TNS
At Paris Fashion Week, industry luminaries including Anna Wintour, John Galliano, Balenciaga designer (and West collaborator) Demna and Tiffany & Co.’s Alexandre Arnault ( the “hunky son” of the LVMH chief Bernard Arnault) all attended his runway event on October 3, where he wore the “White Lives Matter” shirt. As Galliano himself proved with his own anti-Semitic outburst and comeback in 2011, the fashion industry will let you return to work – if it believes in your talent and commercial viability.

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Kanye West attends the Kenzo autumn/winter show in January 2022 in Paris. Photo: TNS

It’s unclear who is currently backing his fashion line, but West said, “We’re starting our own house tonight” at the Paris show. Later, he told Women’s Wear Daily: “Why would I do a deal? I run the culture. ... That’s what happens when you go independent, you can’t lean on those big companies to give your vision.”

Kanye the victim ...?

Candace Owens and Kanye West both believe in conspiracy theories. Photo: @candaceshow/Instagram

Last week, Owens attempted to paint West as a victim of cancel culture, when she tweeted that JPMorgan Chase had closed its banking relationship with Ye.

“Earlier today I learned that @kanyewest was officially kicked out of JP Morgan Chase bank. I was told there was no official reason given, but they sent this letter as well to confirm that he has until late November to find another place for the Yeezy empire to bank,” Owens tweeted on October 13. She shared a screenshot of the letter, and the claim gained traction on right-wing media.

J.P. Morgan office building in Central, Hong Kong. Photo: Sun Yeung

A person with knowledge of the situation, who was not authorised to speak publicly, said that the letter was dated September 20, preceding this latest round of outbursts.

“Once you start going off the rails, attacking the CEO and doing all kinds of extreme behaviour,” Reed said, “you’re making yourself radioactive.”

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  • The 45-year-old rapper, who now goes by Ye, has become ‘radioactive’ to brands after a string of anti-Semitic outbursts that even Tucker Carlson had to edit out for TV
  • West has been blocked from Instagram and Twitter as he continues to spout conspiracy theories, while right-wing commentator Candace Owens paints him as a victim of ‘cancel culture’