I’m Steve Hooper, chair of REI’s board of directors. At a town hall meeting at REI headquarters just a few minutes ago, we shared an important change to the leadership of REI. Jerry Stritzke has resigned from his role as REI President and CEO and will be leaving the co-op on March 15. Eric Artz, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, will serve as interim CEO, effective immediately.
We wanted to tell you, the employees of REI, as quickly as possible. This is difficult news, and both Jerry and the board of directors want to be straightforward about why he’s leaving.
The board formally accepted Jerry’s resignation yesterday, February 11, following an investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding a personal and consensual relationship between Jerry and the leader of another organization in the outdoor industry.
The investigation was conducted by an external law firm and overseen by the board. Jerry resigned because he and the board agree 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.
The investigation also thoroughly evaluated the working relationship between the REI Co-op and the partner organization and found that there was no financial misconduct. It’s important for me to emphasize—and for you to know—that the board is otherwise satisfied that our expectations have been met regarding how the two organizations should work together.
The board of directors has a significant responsibility to REI, however, and the conclusions of the investigation were clear. Errors of judgment were made, and Jerry and the board agree that it is time for a new leader to take the co-op forward.
Jerry has been an excellent CEO for REI and together, all of you have delivered outstanding results for the co-op during remarkably challenging times in retail. The co-op is stronger today than when Jerry joined. We are confident that you have the right strategy, great talent and a very strong leadership team.
Eric, after six years of service to REI, steps forward at a time of financial strength and positive momentum. He is a seasoned leader and passionate 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 REI. You are in good hands.
Before we move ahead into this next chapter, let me thank all of you, on behalf of the board of directors, for all you do as employees of REI. This is a special organization with a long history and, with your support, the co-op will continue to act in the best interests of our members and the outdoors.
Finally, we would like to thank Jerry for his tireless work on behalf of the co-op. We will always be grateful for his drive, dedication and many contributions to the co-op.