Adidas investors in pounds 1bn bonanza

Adidas yesterday announced that one of its main shareholders was disposing of almost 12 million shares, worth pounds 750m. The sale will in effect make the original pounds 200m invested four years ago by Robert Louis-Dreyfus and four others for a 76 per cent stake in the then loss-making German sportswear giant worth pounds 1.1bn.

Mr Louis-Dreyfus, the 50-year-old former chief executive of the Saatchi & Saatchi advertising agency who once dated Kim Basinger, acquired his stake in Adidas for a reputed pounds 200m from the controversial French entrepreneur- turned-politician, Bernard Tapie, and bankers Credit Lyonnais in April 1993. At the time the company was racking up losses of more than pounds 60m a year.

Two years later he was able to sell 50 per cent of the shares in the company for pounds 600m in a global public offering to leading financial institutions. The flotation followed a dramatic recovery in the company's sales and profits.

Last month Mr Louis-Dreyfus was able to disclose a further profits spurt in company. During 1996 sales soared by 75 per cent to DM4.7bn (pounds 1.7bn) and profits surged by 50 per cent to DM440m (pounds 160m).

Both the Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia and the Euro 96 football championships in the UK proved a winning forum for the Adidas brand. The victorious German soccer team all wore Adidas products as did no fewer than 220 Olympic medallists.

Now,with Adidas shares riding high at around DM185, the final 26 per cent stake in the company held through a private Belgian company, Sogedim, is being sold for an additional pounds 750m. It makes the profit on the venture shared between four men and one woman work out at around pounds 900m.

David Bromilow, 54, a little-known financier running a medical publishing company in Hong Kong, collected the lion's share of the profits of pounds 427m on the original shares flotation.

He was a partner with Mr Louis Dreyfus in his first business venture - a market research company specialising in the pharmaceutical industry. Mr Bromilow now lives near Bangkok and his son Charles runs Adidas in Singapore. Mr Bromilow and and two other backers, Tom Russell, a Florida real estate developer, and Mary Friday, former secretary to Mr Louis-Dreyfus and now a lawyer in South Carolina, share a further pounds 325m of the spoils between them.

But for Mr Louis-Dreyfus personally, this is not a sell-out. He and Adidas boardroom colleague, Christian Tourres, the two driving forces in the business, have agreed to retain half the Sogedim shares on offer and hold them as private individuals. The rest will be sold to other global financial institutions through a bookbuilding operation organised by Union Bank of Switzerland. UBS was confident the placing would be quickly completed last night.

To underline his success in transforming Adidas, Mr Louis-Dreyfus last night released first-quarter figures for 1997, showing sales up another 42 per cent at DM1.7bn and profits 37 per cent ahead at DM235m.

Last autumn, Mr Louis-Dreyfus signed another high-profile marketing agreement to sponsor the soccer World Cup in France next year.