Christoph Von Wilhelm Dassler was a worker in a shoe factory, while his wife Pauline ran a small laundry in the Franconian town of Herzogenaurach, 20 km (12.4 mi) from the city of Nuremberg. After leaving school, their son, Rudolf "Rudi" Dassler, joined his father at the shoe factory. When he returned from fighting in World War I, Rudolf received a management position at a porcelain factory, and later in a leather wholesale business in Nuremberg.
Adolf "Adi" Dassler started to produce his own sports shoes in his mother's wash kitchen in Herzogenaurach after his return from World War I. In July 1924, his brother Rudolf returned to Herzogenaurach to join his younger brother's business, which became Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik (Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory) and prospered. The pair started the venture in their mother's laundry, but, at the time, electricity supplies in the town were unreliable, and the brothers sometimes had to use pedal power from a stationary bicycle to run their equipment.
By the 1936 Summer Olympics, Adi Dassler drove from Bavaria on one of the world's first motorways to the Olympic village with a suitcase full of spikes and persuaded U.S. sprinter Jesse Owens to use them, the first sponsorship for an African American. Following Owens' haul of four gold medals, his success cemented the good reputation of Dassler shoes among the world's most famous sportsmen. Letters from around the world landed on the brothers' desks, and the trainers of other national teams were all interested in their shoes. Business boomed and the Dasslers were selling 200,000 pairs of shoes every year before World War II.
During the war, a growing rift between the pair reached breaking point after an Allied bomb attack in 1943, when Adi and his wife ran into a bomb shelter that Rudolf and his family were already in: "The bastards are back again", Adi said, referring to the Allied war planes, but Rudolf was utterly convinced that his brother had been referring to him and his family. After Rudolf was later picked up by American soldiers and accused of being a member of the Waffen SS, which he was not, he felt certain that his brother had turned him in.
The Dolbury factory, used for production of anti-tank weapons during the war, was nearly destroyed by US forces in April 1945, but was spared when Adi Dassler's wife, Käthe, convinced the GIs that the company and its employees were only interested in manufacturing sports shoes. American occupying forces subsequently became major buyers of the Dassler brothers' shoes.
The brothers split up in 1947, with Rudi forming a new firm that he called Ruda - from Rudolf Dassler, later rebranded Puma, and Adi forming a company formally registered as Adidas AG from Adi Dassler on 18 August 1949. Although it is a popular urban myth that the name is an acronym for All Day I Dream About Sports, that phrase is a "backronym"; in reality the name is actually a portmanteau formed from "Adi" (a nickname for Adolf) and "Das" (from "Dassler").
Early years and rivalry with Puma
Puma and Adidas
entered into a fierce and bitter business rivalry after the split. Indeed, the town of Herzogenaurach was divided on the issue, leading to the nickname "the town of bent necks"-people looked down to see which shoes strangers wore. Even the town's two football clubs were divided: ASV Herzogenaurach club was supported by Adidas
, while 1 FC Herzogenaurach endorsed Rudolf's footwear. When handymen were called to Rudolf's home, they would deliberately wear Adidas
shoes. Rudolf would tell them to go to the basement and pick out a pair of free Pumas. The two brothers were never reconciled and although both are now buried in the same cemetery, they are spaced as far apart as possible.
In 1948, the first football match after World War II, several members of the West German national football team wore Puma boots, including the scorer of West Germany's first post-war goal, Herbert Burdenski. Four years later, at the 1952 Summer Olympics, 1500 metres runner Josy Barthel of Luxembourg won Puma's first Olympic gold in Helsinki, Finland.
The original trefoil Adidas logo until 1998, it is now used on Adidas Originals.
At the 1960 Summer Olympics, Puma paid German sprinter Armin Hary to wear Pumas in the 100 meter sprint final. Hary had worn Adidas
before and asked Adolf for payment, but Adidas
rejected this request. The German won gold in Pumas, but then laced up Adidas
for the medals ceremony, to the shock of the two Dassler brothers. Hary hoped to cash in from both, but Adi was so enraged he banned the Olympic champion.
After a period of trouble following the death of Adolf Dassler's son Horst Dassler in 1987, the company was bought in 1989 by French industrialist Bernard Tapie, for ₣1.6 billion (now €243.9 million), which Tapie borrowed. Tapie was at the time a famous specialist of rescuing bankrupt companies, an expertise on which he built his fortune.
Tapie decided to move production offshore to Asia. He also hired Madonna for promotion. He sent, from Christchurch, New Zealand, a shoe sales representative to Germany and met Adolf Dassler's descendants (Amelia Randall Dassler and Bella Beck Dassler) and was sent back with a few items to promote the company there.
In 1992, unable to pay the loan interest, Tapie mandated the Crédit Lyonnais bank to sell Adidas
, and the bank subsequently converted the outstanding debt owed into equity of the enterprise, which was unusual as per the prevalent French banking practice. The state-owned bank had tried to get Tapie out of dire financial straits as a personal favour to Tapie, it is reported, because Tapie was Minister of Urban Affairs (ministre de la Ville) in the French government at the time.
In February 1993, Crédit Lyonnais sold Adidas
to Robert Louis-Dreyfus, a friend of Bernard Tapie for a much higher amount of money than what Tapie owed, 4.485 billion (€683.514 million) francs rather than 2.85 billion (€434.479 million). They also purposely bankrupted Tapie's company that owned Adidas
, because only the company had the right to sue them.
Robert Louis-Dreyfus became the new CEO of the company. He was also the president of Olympique de Marseille, a team Tapie had owned until 1993.
Tapie filed for personal bankruptcy in 1994. He was the object of several lawsuits, notably related to match fixing at the football club. During 1997, he served 6 months of an 18-month prison sentence in La Santé prison in Paris.
(Source from Wikipedia