By Sara Germano
BERLIN -- Adidas AG said its global brands director Eric Liedtke, a U.S.-born company lifer who helped guide the German sportswear maker's turnaround in recent years through work with celebrities including Kanye West and Beyoncé, will depart at the end of the year.
Mr. Liedtke, 52, the highest-ranking American at the company, was widely regarded as Adidas's co-number two and, along with global sales director Roland Auschel, considered a possible CEO candidate.
His work as global brands director was decisive in the German sportswear maker's efforts to combat slowing sales in North America, in part by expanding a transformative partnership with the rapper Kanye West, which reintroduced the brand to a new generation of global consumers.
Mr. Liedtke didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday. In a statement, Adidas said he would be succeeded by Brian Grevy, who returns to the company after a spell at Swedish apparel brand Gant, where he served as chief marketing officer and chief executive.
Shares of Adidas were flat after hours at EUR280.95.
Mr. Liedtke joined Adidas in 1994 in the company's Portland, Ore., office and relocated to the global headquarters in Herzogenaurach, Germany, in 2006. He was named to his current role as executive board member of global brands in 2014, a year before Adidas tapped Kasper Rorsted as its current chief executive.
Mr. Liedtke's marketing strategy has emphasized what the company called "open-source" relationships with celebrities, who have been invited to collaborate with and launch their own labels under the Adidas logo.
He steered Adidas's work with Kanye West's Yeezy brand and a partnership with Beyoncé, whose Ivy Park activewear line is expected to relaunch at the end of the year.
An avid American football fan and alumnus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Mr. Liedtke oversaw the company's brands during a revamp of Adidas's approach to American sports, including a move not to renew its outfitting contract for NBA uniforms.
Instead, the company focused on deals with individual American professional athletes in so-called varsity sports like football and baseball, and high-profile outfitting contracts with major collegiate sports programs, most notably the University of Miami.
As a member of the steering committee for Parley for the Oceans, an organization devoted to preserving ocean life, Mr. Liedtke also spearheaded a project to produce Adidas shoes with recycled ocean plastic.
In a separate statement, Adidas said Mr. Liedtke informed the supervisory board he "will not be available as an executive board member for the entire next strategic cycle starting in 2021" and as a result will end his current contract with the company on December 31. Adidas is tentatively expected to roll out its next five-year plan next spring.
Write to Sara Germano at firstname.lastname@example.org