Founder Donates Patagonia to Help Preserve Planet

'Earth is now our only shareholder,' Yvon Chouinard says
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 14, 2022 7:15 PM CDT
Founder Donates Patagonia to Help Preserve Planet
Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia Inc., attends commencement at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where he received an honorary degree, in 2009.   (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

Yvon Chouinard started Patagonia 50 years ago and built the outdoor clothing retailer into a $3 billion company. On Wednesday, he announced he's giving it away. Patagonia and all of its voting stock are now held by a trust charged with protecting the company's values. All nonvoting shares go to a nonprofit, the Holdfast Collective, that will fight environmental crises and protect nature, the Washington Post reports. Patagonia had been owned by Chouinard, his spouse, and two adult children, per CNBC. "Earth is now our only shareholder," a company statement said.

Patagonia, which sells more than $1 billion in merchandise a year, will remain a for-profit company and expects the donation to amount to about $100 million a year. "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," Chouinard, 83, told the New York Times. "We are going to give away the maximum amount of money to people who are actively working on saving this planet." He and his family will owe about $17.5 million in taxes on the gift over the transfer of shares to a trust.

The company has long been active in political and environmental causes. Patagonia was critical of President Trump and his administration for decreasing protections for public lands, for instance. Chouinard considered selling Patagonia or taking it public but was concerned about the pressures to maximize profits for shareholders. His children didn't want the company; their father said they didn't want to be seen as profiting from a new arrangement. So he chose a more complicated route. "Instead of extracting value from nature and transforming it into wealth, we are using the wealth Patagonia creates to protect the source," Chouinard said. "I am dead serious about saving this planet." (Read more Patagonia stories.)

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