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Business

Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard is giving away company




Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard announced Wednesday that he is giving away the outdoor clothing company — an unorthodox move intended to help combat climate change and the environmental crisis.

In a letter posted on the company’s website, Chouinard wrote that ownership of the company, which was founded in 1[ads1]973 and is reportedly valued at about $3 billion, has been transferred to a trust created to protect the company’s values ​​and mission as well as its nonprofit organization.

“Jorden is now our sole shareholder,” it said. “100% of the company’s voting shares are transferred to the Patagonia Purpose Trust, created to protect the company’s values; and 100% of the non-voting shares had been given to the Holdfast Collective, a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting the environmental crisis and defending nature.”

In addition, profits not reinvested back into the business will be distributed by Patagonia as a dividend to the Holdfast Collective to help address climate change, according to a press release. The company estimates it will pay out an annual dividend of about $100 million — an amount that could change depending on the health of the business.

Yvon Chouinard spoke about preserving public lands in a Patagonia ad released on August 20, 2017. (Video: Patagonia/YouTube)

“Half a century has passed since we began our experiment in responsible business,” Chouinard, 83, said in the release. “If we have any hope of a thriving planet in 50 years, it requires us all to do everything we can with the resources we have. As the business leader I never wanted to be, I’m doing my part. Instead of deriving values ​​from nature and transform it into wealth, we use the wealth Patagonia creates to protect the source.”

“I’m serious about saving this planet,” he added.

The decision, first reported by the New York Times, reflects Chouinard’s maverick approach to linking his business to conservation and political activism during his roughly five-decade career. In recent years, the company has, for example, blamed President Donald Trump and members of his administration for reducing protections for public lands and went so far as to sue Trump.

Then in 2021, Patagonia announced it would no longer sell its merchandise at a popular resort in Wyoming after one of the owners hosted a fundraiser with rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) and other Republicans who support Trump.

Patagonia, REI blast national monument rollbacks; ‘The president stole your country’

The company has also engaged in more traditional forms of activism. In addition to making products with materials that cause less harm to the environment, Patagonia has for years donated 1 percent of sales largely to grassroots environmental organizations, and will continue to do so.

The company funded a 2014 documentary film called “DamNation,” which aimed to mobilize support for demolishing dams to revive wild fish populations.

In Wednesday’s letter, Chouinard explained that selling Patagonia or going public were both wrong options. Even if the company could be sold and all profits donated, there was no guarantee that a new owner would maintain the values ​​of the business or ensure that all the workers remained employed. And taking the company public, Chouinard wrote, would have been a “disaster.”

“Even public companies with good intentions are under too much pressure to create short-term profit at the expense of long-term vitality and responsibility,” he wrote.

Choosing to give Patagonia away is the latest step in the company’s long-running experiment in responsible business, Chouinard wrote.

“If we have any hope of a thriving planet — much less a thriving business — 50 years from now, it will take all of us doing what we can with the resources we have,” he wrote. “This is another way we’ve found to do our part.”

Ryan Gellert, Patagonia’s CEO, said in a statement that the Chouinard family “challenged” him and a few others two years ago to develop a new structure for the company with two central goals: “They wanted us both to protect the purpose of the business. and immediately and continuously release more funds to combat the environmental crisis, he said. “We believe this new structure delivers both, and we hope it will inspire a new way of doing business that puts people and the planet first.”

Under the new arrangement, the Chouinard family will guide the Patagonia Purpose Trust and the philanthropic work carried out by the Holdfast Collective, according to the press release. The company’s management will not change either. Gellert will continue to serve as the company’s CEO while the Chouinard family remains on Patagonia’s board.

The other board members praised the transfer of ownership.

“Companies that create the next model of capitalism through deep commitment to purpose will attract more investment, better employees and deeper customer loyalty,” Charles Conn, chairman, said in a statement. “They are the future of business if we want to build a better world, and that future starts with what Yvon is doing now.”

Board member Kristine McDivitt Tompkins said in the roughly 60 years she has known Chouinard “his vision has never wavered.”

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