Kanye West says he lost $2.8b over anti-Semitic rants

Kanye West’s willingness to go beyond the pale is a double-edged sword for business partners. PHOTO: AFP

LOS ANGELES – Kanye West lost US$2 billion (S$2.8 billion) in a single day, he said on Thursday, as business partners rushed to dump the rapper in the wake of a series of anti-Semitic outbursts.

The American music and fashion mogul has seen lucrative commercial tie-ups shelved as companies, including Adidas and Gap, took fright at comments dubbed as hate speech by activists.

“I lost $2 billion in one day. And I’m still alive. This is love speech,” West, 45, wrote on Instagram in a post that had been liked more than one million times.

“I still love you. God still loves you. The money is not who I am. The people is who I am,” the post said, naming Mr Ari Emanuel, chief executive of entertainment company Endeavor, who had urged companies to sever ties with the rapper.

German sportswear giant Adidas said on Tuesday it was ending its partnership with West, who is also known as Ye, after his “unacceptable, hateful and dangerous” comments.

Adidas also said it would end production of the highly successful Yeezy line designed together with West and “stop all payments to Ye and his companies”.

The move is expected to lop about a quarter of a billion dollars off Adidas’ bottom line in 2022 alone.

West, who is open about his struggles with bipolar disorder, has long been outspoken, having half-heartedly run for United States president in 2020 and then thrown his weight behind then president Donald Trump.

West’s willingness to go beyond the pale is a double-edged sword for business partners, who have benefited from his high profile and his frequent media appearances, but who risk being tarnished by association.

While they weathered previous comments – including when West called slavery a choice – things began to unravel in October with his appearance at a Paris fashion show wearing a shirt emblazoned “White Lives Matter”, a slogan created as a backlash to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Embed Instagram

Days later, he was temporarily locked out of Twitter and Instagram for threatening to “Go death con 3 on Jewish people”, using a misspelled reference to United States military readiness.

That sparked alarm, including apparently from his former wife Kim Kardashian, who wrote on social media “Hate speech is never OK or excusable,” in posts that did not name West.

Last weekend, a banner was hoisted over a busy Los Angeles freeway that read “Kanye is right about the Jews” and “Honk if you know”. Several people were photographed making “Heil Hitler” salutes.

Escorted out

Adidas’ announcement was followed hours later by US company Gap, which said it was taking “immediate steps to remove Yeezy Gap product from our stores” in addition to shutting down YeezyGap.com.

Paris-based fashion house Balenciaga also ended ties with the rapper last week, saying it “no longer (has) any relationship nor any plans for future projects related to this artiste”.

One of Hollywood’s biggest talent agencies, CAA, said it was dropping West, while film and TV producer MRC said it was shelving an already-finished documentary about the artist.

On Wednesday, West was escorted out of the corporate offices of shoe company Skechers in Los Angeles after showing up uninvited with a film crew, the firm said. AFP

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