Feature

The other shoe drops

It took Reebok India five years to wake up to financial irregularities of nearly ₹900 crore. What happens now?

He’s the quintessential salesman who will do “almost anything” to close a deal. Friends and rivals alike describe Subhinder Singh Prem as determined and a go-getter. The 43-year-old former managing director of Adidas India is known for following his pursuits passionately, be it working out or running a business. From the time he joined Reebok India in 1995 as a footwear manager, Prem was a regular at the company’s fitness centre, reaching there at least an hour before work started.

The workouts continued as he climbed up the ranks to become managing director of Reebok India in 2003 and last year, Adidas India after the two companies integrated operations in India. Meanwhile, he was also acting as a de facto entrepreneur: a couple of years ago, Prem told Outlook Business how Reebok India gave him the opportunity to run the business as his own. “Within the ambit of global norms, we have full liberty to make things work here without awaiting approval from headquarters,” he said.

It all adds up now

Those words are probably haunting him now. In March 2012, Adidas India curtly announced that Prem and Vishnu Bhagat, the company’s chief operating officer, were leaving with immediate effect and were being replaced with people from the parent company. Less than two months later, on May 21, Reebok India filed a First Information Report (FIR) accusing the two of commercial irregularities that had cost the company over Rs.870 crore.

Overall, the FIR charges Prem and Bhagat on several counts  — theft of stock and moving them to their own warehouses, generating fictitious sales, working in a suspicious manner with franchisees, inflating sales figures and maintaining parallel books of accounts (see: How it was done). While Prem refused to comment for this story, Bhagat did not respond to calls and messages on his mobile. As things stand, the anticipatory bail plea of the duo has been denied and the case has been referred to the Serious Frauds Investigation Office (SFIO). Meanwhile, Prem has filed a countersuit against Reebok India, citing defamation and abrupt termination of services, and is de

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