Patagonia Owner Donates Company to Fight Climate Change
Outdoor clothing and equipment company Patagonia says "the earth is now our only shareholder" after moving the company's ownership from founder Yvon Chouinard and his family to two nonprofits established to fight climate change.
In a letter posted on the 50-year-old company's website, Chouinard said Patagonia would move 100% of its voting shares to the Patagonia Purpose Trust, created to uphold the values of the company long known for its environmental activism. All of its nonvoting shares will go to the Holdfast Collective, a nonprofit "dedicated to fighting the environmental crisis and defending nature."
Explaining the decision to give the company to the two nonprofits, Chouinard said that he had thought about selling the company — which is worth about $3 billion — or taking it public. But he couldn't be sure that the new owners would continue to work to protect the environment and take care of the company's team of employees around the world.
Patagonia estimates that after putting some profits back into the company, about $100 million annually will be given to the Holdfast Collective, depending on the health of the business.
Although Chouinard and his family will remain on the board of directors, they will no longer own it or get any money from it — in fact, they will have to pay a large tax bill for their donation.
Grace Chiang Nicolette, from The Center for Effective Philanthropy, said this unusual decision by the Chouinard family may inspire other company founders looking to donate their businesses to causes important to them.
Chouinard, who became famous as a pioneering rock-climber in California's Yosemite National Park in the 1960s, said he never wanted to be a businessman.
He started Patagonia in 1973 as a craftsman, he said, making climbing equipment for himself and his friends.