An eccentric billionaire and founder of the clothing brand Patagonia has come up with a unique way to fight climate change. He’s given up his entire nearly $3 billion empire.
Yvon Chouinard, his wife and two adult children have transferred ownership of the company to a nonprofit organization devoted to combating climate change and protecting undeveloped land worldwide.
All the company’s profits, which come to over $1 million a year, will go to the nonprofit Patagonia Purpose Trust and the Holdfast Collective. Chouinard, 83, refers to the move as “reimagining capitalism.”
He explained how the world needs to do more to fight climate change and how he came to his decision to start a nonprofit. “One option was to sell Patagonia and donate all the money. But we couldn’t be sure a new owner would maintain our values or keep our people around the world employed.”
“Another path was to take the company public.”
“What a disaster that would have been. Even public companies with good intentions are under too much pressure to create short-term gain at the expense of long-term vitality and responsibility.”
“Truth be told, there were no good options available. So we created our own.”
“Every dollar that is not reinvested back into Patagonia will be distributed as dividends to protect the planet.”
Chouinard is known for his eccentric ways. He is a rock climber turned reluctant millionaire.
He began selling handmade mountain gear in 1957. He lived out of his car eating cat food. He continued on that path until supply and demand issues forced him to partner with Tom Frost in 1965. He officially launched the Patagonia brand in 1973.
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The entrepreneur continues his eccentric ways to this day. He wears raggedy clothes, drives a beat-up Subaru and owns modest homes in Ventura, CA and Jackson, WY. He does not own a computer or mobile phone.