We have the greatest admiration for Mr. Couinard, who has chosen to turn his vast fortune over to the cause of fighting climate change. But as we have often observed, it is not easy to keep a commercial enterprise vital and sustainable when it is owned by a non-profit. Their risk tolerances as very different. Their governance needs and measurement metrics and forms of accountability are very different. And their leadership needs are very different. Look at Reader’s Digest as a cautionary tale. We will be watching this carefully.
A half century after founding the outdoor apparel maker Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, the eccentric rock climber who became a reluctant billionaire with his unconventional spin on capitalism, has given the company away.
Rather than selling the company or taking it public, Mr. Chouinard, his wife and two adult children have transferred their ownership of Patagonia, valued at about $3 billion, to a specially designed trust and a nonprofit organization. They were created to preserve the company’s independence and ensure that all of its profits — some $100 million a year — are used to combat climate change and protect undeveloped land around the globe.