The man who gave away his company

Yvon Chouinard’s Patagonia has always done things differently.

Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, 83, is making headlines for giving away his ~$3B company. But for an environmentalist who never wanted wealth, it makes sense.

Chouinard had no faith that selling the company or taking it public would retain the values on which he founded it.

So instead, he and his family transferred:

  • The company’s voting shares — 2% of the company — to the Patagonia Purpose Trust, which is overseen by family and advisors to make important company decisions.
  • The other 98% to the Holdfast Collective, a nonprofit that will distribute all profits — ~$100m annually — to environmental causes.

Who is Yvon Chouinard?

A legendary rock climber, nature lover, and falconry club founder who once lived out of his car selling climbing gear he blacksmithed himself.

He founded Patagonia in 1973…

… after initially buying rugby shirts in the UK and selling them to other climbers.

The company’s original rugged apparel gear soon developed a large fanbase, and now sells some $1B worth annually.

It’s also well-known for being good to its employees, who enjoy a healthy cafe with lots of vegetarian options and are encouraged to explore nature versus languishing at their desks.

Patagonia also:

  • 1983: Introduced on-site child care, which the company says pays for itself via tax benefits, employee retention and engagement, and opportunity for women.
  • 1994: Began switching to 100% organic cotton.
  • 2002: Began giving 1% of sales to environmental movements.
  • 2012: Became California’s first certified B Corp.

Chouinard’s latest unconventional move is just par for the course.

“Hopefully this will influence a new form of capitalism that doesn’t end up with a few rich people and a bunch of poor people,” he told The New York Times.

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