The Downfall of Kanye West’s Business & Fashion Empire

Kanye West is no longer a billionaire, according to Forbes. The popular financial magazine reported Oct. 25 that the rapper lost his spot on its list of billionaires after being dropped by Adidas for his antisemitic comments.

Adidas had stated in early October that its partnership with West was being reviewed after he claimed on what is now a removed episode of the Drink Champs podcast that “the thing about it being Adidas is, like, I can literally say antisemitic s–t and they can’t drop me … I can antisemitic things and Adidas can’t drop me. Now what?”

West’s (now legally known just as Ye) multi-year partnership with Adidas was valued at $1.5 billion and without it, he’s reportedly worth just $400 million, but Ye also has a history of pushing back on a Forbes valuation of his net worth. “It’s not a billion,” he texted to a Forbes representative when he was first named to the list back in 2020. “It’s $3.3 billion since no one at Forbes knows how to count”. 

What remains of Kanye’s business and fashion empire since losing his Adidas deal comes from “real estate, cash, his music catalog, and a 5% stake in ex-wife Kim Kardashian’s shapewear firm, Skims,” according to reporting done by Forbes.

Other companies who’ve ceased working with Ye over his antisemitic comments include Balenciaga, production company MRC and Creative Artists Agency. Gap has also stated it is removing Yeezy products from shelves and production and swiftly terminated the rapper’s Yeezy Gap online store. Meanwhile, Kim Kardashian and her sister Khloé Kardashian have both spoken out publicly in support of the Jewish community.

But what does this all mean for Ye’s music career? Both Def Jams and Universal Music Group have stated that their business relationships with Ye ended in 2021. Streams of Ye’s songs dropped by about 23% in the United States between October 13 and October 20 and airplay fell by 13%, according to reports. This has led some to ask if his songs should be banned by streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music.

Music streaming services are generally not in the business of assessing the moral standing of the artist, and even R. Kelly, who was convicted on multiple child pornography charges in September, has not had his music removed. Spotify won’t remove Ye’s music unless his label asks for it to be removed, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek told Reuters on Tuesday.

“It’s really just his music, and his music doesn’t violate our policy,” Ek said. “It’s up to his label, if they want to take action or not.”

As for Apple Music, it has not yet responded to request for comments regarding Ye’s music. One area that could see a financial impact for both Ye and Universal Music Group is the licensing of his music. Consumers may be unmoved and continue to buy his albums, go to his concerts, and listen to his songs even after the latest controversy, but it’s much harder to convince TV producers and advertisers to be willing to put up large amounts of money to be associated with Ye and his music - regardless of how popular his music might be to the general public.