Two of the world’s most renowned shoe companies were birthed from a bout of bad blood between siblings. In the 1920s, German brothers Adolf and Rudolf Dassler launched a shoe company together in their mother’s laundry room. Their business boomed after Dassler shoes adorned the feet of gold-medal-winning Olympians in the 1930s. But as their sales spiked, so did the tension between the two brothers. World War II proved the breaking point in their relationship. While no one is sure what caused the riff, it’s said to be a result of miscommunication. After an Allied bomb attack, Adolf and his wife took cover in a bomb shelter already occupied by Rudolf and his family. “The dirty bastards are back again,” Adolf said, apparently referring to the planes, but Rudolf thought the comment was an attack against his family.
By the war’s end, the brothers had split the company and waged a war of their own — in the business arena. Adolf, who preferred to be called Adi, named his business Adidas, combining his first and last names; Rudolf tried the same with his firm called Ruda, though he later changed it to Puma. It’s said that the brothers never spoke again, and their bitter rivalry even divided the town of Herzogenaurach, where they built their competing factories on the opposite banks of the town’s river. It wasn’t until September 2009, long after the brothers’ deaths, that the companies put aside their feud and faced off in a friendly game of soccer — an appropriate meeting for two companies who’ve become independently famous in the field of sports shoes.
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