REI’s board of directors cited a ‘personal and consensual relationship between the REI CEO and the leader of another organization in the outdoor industry.’
After more than five years as head of REI, Jerry Stritzke will step down as the company’s CEO following an investigation into a “personal and consensual relationship” Stritzke had with another outdoor industry leader.
At this time, the other person’s identity and the nature of their relationship remain unclear. REI did not say whether the relationship is ongoing. The Seattle-based retail giant announced Stritzke will leave the co-op on March 15, 2019. Chief Operating Officer Eric Artz will take on the role of interim CEO “effective immediately.”
REI said its board oversaw an investigation by an external law firm into the relationship. But according to its findings, “there was no financial misconduct.”
Stritzke also penned a letter addressing the issue and his resignation to REI employees. Read his letter in full below.
Jerry Stritzke Resigns as REI CEO
This morning, here at our Kent headquarters, our Board Chair, Steve Hooper, announced that the REI board of directors has accepted my resignation as President and CEO of REI. My last day will be March 15. Eric Artz, REI Chief Operating Officer, will take on the role of interim CEO, effective immediately.
Five years ago, I joined REI as CEO and started a new phase of my life. I feel incredibly fortunate to have been a part of and to have led this organization. I have learned a great deal and while it is hard to leave, it’s the right time. I am grateful that I can transition an organization that I love to a seasoned leader in Eric and a talented team at a time when the co-op has real momentum. That’s a rare privilege as a CEO and this change gives me the opportunity to pursue a lifelong dream — to go explore all the places that inspired me to join REI.
I offered my resignation because in recent weeks the board of directors and I have had a series of tough conversations about my decision to keep private a personal and consensual relationship with the leader of another organization in the outdoor industry. The board oversaw a thorough investigation that was conducted by an external law firm. While there was no financial misconduct, I should have told the board because my actions created a perceived conflict of interest to the co-op.
Looking back, I recognize I should have been transparent. REI expects high standards from its leaders. The board and I agree that, in this instance, my decisions did not meet them and the last thing I want is to damage REI. I deeply regret that my actions could impact the co-op. You deserve better.
Looking ahead, both the board of directors and I are fully committed to ensuring that REI continues to thrive. I am confident that Eric will do a great job. I am grateful for his partnership during my tenure and fully support his stepping into the interim role. We have the right strategy, an excellent leadership team and REI is in a great place financially, so I know the co-op will continue to progress.
I have huge admiration for you all, and I believe fiercely that the work the co-op has done for 80 years has had an unmatched positive impact on the outdoors and on people’s lives. Thank you again for all you do and for the opportunity to lead.
See you outside,
Editor’s Note: We will continue to update this story as it develops.