Senior Editor
Staff
Yvon Chouinard, during filming of "180° South"

The man just thinks differently. Photo: Jimmy Chin, from the film, 180° South


The Inertia

Yvon Chouinard has never really operated in a standard way. And the Patagonia founder’s latest move simply reiterates that fact. Chouinard, who has not only made fighting climate change his life’s mission, but that of his company, has reportedly given Patagonia away to further that mission.

According to the New York Times, instead of selling or taking Patagonia public (standard business practice these days), Chouinard and his family have transferred ownership to a trust and nonprofit organization. That, according to the report, will ensure that the $100 million a year the company rakes in will be used to fight the changing climate and protect precious undeveloped land. The company is reportedly worth $3 billion at the moment.

“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, now 83, told the Times. “We are going to give away the maximum amount of money to people who are actively working on saving this planet.”

The report also detailed how the funds will be distributed. Two percent of the company was put into the Patagonia Purpose Trust, which will apparently work to make sure Patagonia runs a socially responsible business and gives away its profits. A watchdog of sorts that the Chouinard family will pay a whopping $17.5 million in taxes to donate to. The rest of the company was put into a trust known as the Holdfast Collective, “which will now be the recipient of all the company’s profits and use the funds to combat climate change.” The Collective’s 501(c)(4) status means there is no tax benefit for the family. After the gift, the Times tagged the Chouinards as now one of the most charitable families in the country, for obvious reasons.

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Why the drastic change? Because of Chouinard’s age and distaste for billionaire culture, he was ready to make a move. Being part of the elite rich apparently never sat well with the former dirtbag climber who helped open up climbing in California’s Yosemite Valley and other parts of the world. He feels that many billionaires and publicly owned companies talk a good game, but most often contribute to the very climate change problems he’s spent his life working to solve. Chouinard’s middle-aged children didn’t want to take on the company responsibility either, so a group of lawyers working for him set out to find a solution, looking into giving the company to the employees, going public, or finding a different solution that would complete Chouinard’s mission. They apparently found the solution that satisfied Chouinard, who will now survive on a modest income, splitting time between two of his favorite places: Ventura, California and Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Of course the cynic might say a lack of capitalist drive might make the company less bent on quality and fulfilling its other longtime mission of making sturdy outdoor equipment, a point addressed in the report. But it seems that Chouinard could care less.

“I was in Forbes magazine listed as a billionaire, which really, really pissed me off,he said. “I don’t have $1 billion in the bank. I don’t drive Lexuses. I don’t respect the stock market at all. Once you’re public, you’ve lost control over the company, and you have to maximize profits for the shareholder, and then you become one of these irresponsible companies. I feel a big relief that I’ve put my life in order. For us, this was the ideal solution.”

Read the entire New York Times report, here.

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