After 60 years, family feud that made Puma and Adidas is over

Thet are two of the world's most instantly recognisable sports brands and they hail from the same medieval German town. Indeed Puma and Adidas, which have shod millions of runners and footballers over the years and graced the feet of some of the greatest ever athletes, trace their origins to the same family of cobblers.

But a deep and apparently irreconcilable fraternal bust up between brothers Adi and Rudi Dassler 60 years ago saw the original company split into the two leading names we know today. Yet as both firms have gone on to international success, the enmity continues to divide the north Bavarian town nicknamed the "place of bent necks" because everyone checks out everyone else's shoes and where rival staff employed by either company live separate lives.

Today, however, after six decades apart, the present day bosses are to bury the hatchet in a highly symbolic display of reconciliation, shaking hands as part of a pioneering peace initiative. To consolidate the rapprochement, workers from the two firms will then play football together, breaching a divide that has existed since an argument between the two brothers as they left an air raid shelter during the Second World War. Chief executive of Adidas Herbert Hainer said he was proud to be taking part in the project, entitled Peace One Day, which is the brainchild of the German film-maker Jeremy Gilley.

"We firmly believe that sport can bring the world together. Sport has shown this at countless occasions in the past and we are committed to the positive values found in sport: performance and passion, teamwork and fair play," he said.

Before the war the brothers' joint company Gebrüder Dassler Sportschuhfabrik made the place famous producing sports shoes that were worn by Jesse Owens at the Berlin Olympics. But while elderly residents still gossip about various fanciful causes of the rift – continually speculating on whether Adi slept with Rudi's wife, that the two wives hated each other, that Rudi fathered Adi's son or that Rudi – the less successful entrepreneur of the pair – had his hands in the petty-cash box – no one really knows.

But most seem to agree that the argument can be traced to one night in 1943 and a misplaced comment by Adi that Rudi was never to forget: during an Allied bomb attack on Herzogenaurach in 1943 Adi and his wife climbed into a bomb shelter that Rudi and his family were already in.

"The dirty bastards are back again," Adi said, apparently referring to the Allied warplanes. Rudi was convinced that his brother meant him and his family.

After the war Rudi was taken to an American prisoner of war camp while his fraternal rival carried on running the family business without him. In 1948 he returned and set up his own factory, now Puma, on the other side of the river. Since then the two companies have bitterly contested every technological innovation.

Today Puma operates in 120 countries and employs more than 9,000 people worldwide. The Adidas group has more than 38,000 employees and generated sales of €10.8bn (£9.6bn) in 2008.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Guru Careers: Graduate Resourcer / Recruitment Account Executive

£18k + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright, enthusiastic and internet...

Reach Volunteering: Chair and trustees sought for YMCA Bolton

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Bolton YMCA is now a...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine