Who Is Patagonia Founder Yvon Chouinard? Meet the Entrepreneur Who's Giving Away His $3 Billion Brand
Patagonia owner Yvon Chouinard is definitely not your typical billionaire, and he likes it that way.
Adventurers are most likely familiar with the behemoth outdoor clothing brand Patagonia, but following the news that the company's founder, Yvon Chouinard, is giving away his $3 billion brand, people are eager to learn more about the nontraditional entrepreneur.
The move to transfer ownership of the company to a special trust and nonprofit organization was made to ensure Patagonia stays true to its roots and that all of its profits go to combating climate change and protecting the environment.
"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," the 83-year-old "reluctant businessman" said in an interview with 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."
Keep scrolling to learn more about Chouinard and Patagonia.
Who is Yvon Chouinard?
In the 1960s, Yvon Chouinard was an avid rock climber who was living in his car and eating cat food to survive. He started making climbing gear and clothing for his friends, then launched Patagonia in 1973. Its mission has always reflected Chouinard's do-gooder attitude: The brand has given 1% of its sales to environmental causes for decades, per the NYT.
Chouinard "never wanted to be a businessman," he wrote in a letter to Patagonia customers announcing the plan, and his passion for sustainability never dwindled even as Patagonia grew. With his distaste for capitalism and his mission to help the environment, he set out to "change the way business was done." Today, Chouinard stays true to his simplistic roots and doesn't have a computer or cell phone.
How much are Chouinard and Patagonia worth?
Chouinard's net worth is estimated to be around $1.2 billion, per Forbes, but he isn't happy about it. "I was in Forbes magazine listed as a billionaire, which really, really pissed me off," he told the NYT. "I don't have $1 billion in the bank. I don't drive Lexuses." As for Patagonia, the brand has an estimated value of $3 billion. It sells more than $1 billion in outdoor clothing and gear and brings in $100 million in revenue a year.
Where is Patagonia's headquarters, and is it a privately held company?
Patagonia operates out of Ventura, Calif., and will remain a private, for-profit business to continue generating wealth that will be used exclusively to help the environment. "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," Chouinard wrote in his letter to customers. "Instead of 'going public,' you could say we're 'going purpose.' Instead of extracting value from nature and transforming it into wealth for investors, we'll use the wealth Patagonia creates to protect the source of all wealth."
To do this, the Chouinard family transferred 2% of its voting stock into a Patagonia Purpose Trust to oversee and ensure that the brand stays true to its values. The remaining 98% of the family's shares will go to its new Holdfast Collective nonprofit to fight climate change. The family will pay $17.5 million in taxes on the gift and will receive no tax benefits for its donation to the nonprofit.
Who are Yvon Chouinard's wife and kids?
Chouinard has been married to his wife Matilda Chouinard, née Pennoyer, since 1971. They have two children, Fletcher and Clare. Together, they have never wavered in their goal to do good and give away what they can. "This family is a way outlier when you consider that most billionaires give only a tiny fraction of their net worth away every year," David Callahan, founder of the website Inside Philanthropy, told The New York Times.
The Chouinards don't expect a pat on the back for their generosity either, because to their patriarch, it's just common sense. "I didn't know what to do with the company because I didn't ever want a company," he said to the NYT. "I didn't want to be a businessman. Now I could die tomorrow and the company is going to continue doing the right thing for the next 50 years, and I don't have to be around."
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