Puma is a German brand of sportswear and increasingly also lifestyle accessoires.
Its headquarters are located in Herzogenaurach, near Nuremberg. Legally the
company is a corporation. The shareholdings are widespread, there is currently no majority
owner. It's logo, obviously, is a jumping puma. In 2003 the volume of sales was 1691.5 million Euro with a head count of 3189.
The history of Puma began in 1924, when the brothers Dassler founded the
"Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik" in Herzogenaurach.
Apparently they were good, because in 1936 Jesse Owens won 4 gold medals at the
Olympic Games in Berlin wearing Dassler shoes (though I don't know how many he would have won without them ... ;). In 1948 the "Puma Schuhfabrik Rudolf Dassler"
was founded after the two brothers had a falling out (Adi Dassler started his own company
as well, the famous three-stripes adidas). Puma continued to provide their shoes to professional athletes and
football players. Especially the "Puma King" seems to have been very popular - Eusebio, Pele, Johan
Cruyff, Maradona and Lothar Matthäus among others used it. Boris Becker had Puma shoes and a Puma racket when he won Wimbledon in 1985.
In the end of the 1980s, Puma didn't do too well, but in 1993 Jochen Zeitz became CEO of the ailing company and formulated a long term plan to try and take over the world: Phase I: restructuring. Phase II: investment, marketing, development of new products. Phase III: keep up the demand for the brand and achieve profitable growth. In spite of the fact that it doesn't exactly sound revolutionary it soon reaped success, and since 1994 Puma has been making profit. Currently Puma equips innumerable football teams, formula one racing teams, tennis players, basketball players, track and field athletes and on and on and on. Their website claims that one fourth of the teams in the Euro Cup 1996 wore Puma. In 1998 Puma broke new ground by trying to merge sportswear and fashion ("sports couture") and signed a cooperation with Jil Sander, the first in a series of famous designers working for Puma. As a result, Puma products are indeed very stylish.
Most recently Puma made headlines by filing a suit against the FIFA after the national team of
Cameroon had been deducted 6 qualification points for the World Cup 2006 (ie practically disqualified)
for wearing Puma's new revolutionary one piece jersey/shorts combination.