REI President and CEO Jerry Stritzke has resigned from the co-op after the company’s “investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding a personal and consensual relationship between Jerry and the leader of another organization in the outdoor industry.”
At an employee meeting Tuesday morning at REI headquarters in Kent, WA, REI’s board chair, Steve Hooper, announced that Stritzke will be leaving the co-op on March 15. REI COO Eric Artz will take on the role of interim CEO, effective immediately.
The board of directors formally accepted Jerry’s resignation on February 11 following an investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding a personal and consensual relationship between the REI CEO and the leader of another organization in the outdoor industry.
The investigation was conducted by an external law firm and overseen by the board. It also thoroughly evaluated the working relationship between the REI Co-op and the partner organization and found that there was no financial misconduct. The board is otherwise satisfied that their expectations of how the two organizations should work together have been met.
The board accepted his resignation while recognizing consistently outstanding business performance since Jerry took on the role as president and CEO in October 2013. The board thanked Stritzke in an open letter to employees for his drive, creativity and many innovative contributions to the co-op, highlighting that he has recruited great talent and made a great number of successes possible.
Artz takes over the co-op at a time of financial strength and positive momentum. The board of directors has great confidence in Eric and the leadership team to manage REI during this transition while continuing to execute a clear and ambitious strategy.
Hooper said, “Jerry has been an excellent CEO for REI and together with a strong team has consistently delivered outstanding results for our co-op. He has led REI through remarkably challenging times in retail. He has built a great team and the co-op is stronger today than when he joined.” He continued, “We will always be grateful for Jerry’s drive, his many contributions to the co-op and the successes he and his team have made possible. The conclusions of the investigation, however, were clear. Errors of judgment were made and Jerry and the board agree that REI needs a new leader to take the co-op forward from its very strong position. Eric is a seasoned leader and steward of REI. He is deeply committed to the purpose of the co-op and will do a great job as the board considers the longer-term needs for the co-op.”
Stritzke, who has been president and CEO of REI since October 2013, resigned because he acknowledges that the facts led to a perceived conflict of interest, which he should have disclosed under the REI conflict of interest policy, which requires every REI executive to model the highest standard of conduct. He apologized to REI employees in an open letter this morning.
“I love REI and I believe fiercely that the work that the co-op has done for 80 years has had an unmatched positive impact on the outdoors. I feel incredibly fortunate to have led this organization. REI is full of amazing people and I am grateful for the role the co-op has played in my life, even in the toughest times,” said Stritzke. “I regret few things in life but I am sorry that I did not disclose the relationship, and it’s time for the co-op to have a new leader. The last thing I want is to damage REI and I deeply regret that any of this could impact the co-op. You deserve better. Even so, the co-op is in a great place and I have enormous confidence in Eric and the leadership team and the thousands of employees of REI to get REI to next.”
Stayed tuned for more details on this developing story at sgbonline.com.
Photo courtesy REI