Jerry Stritzke, president and CEO of Kent-based REI, has resigned and will leave the company March 15, after not properly disclosing a personal and consensual relationship with the leader of another outdoor industry organization.
REI posted a media statement on its website after REI Board Chair Steve Hooper told employees about the resignation Tuesday morning at the Kent headquarters.
REI plans to move to Bellevue from Kent in 2020. The company announced the move in 2016 because it had outgrown its space in Kent and wanted to build a campus in Bellevue that will serve as a gathering place that fosters creativity and connects thousands of increasingly mobile employees.
Here is the statement about Stritzke’s resignation.
At an employee meeting at REI headquarters, REI Board Chair Steve Hooper announced Tuesday that Jerry Stritzke, President and CEO, has resigned and will be leaving the co-op on March 15, 2019. REI Chief Operating Officer 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 Mr. 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.
Eric Artz, REI Chief Operating Officer, will take on the role as interim CEO with REI in an historically strong position, reflecting an established succession plan. He does so 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.
Mr. 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.”
Mr. 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.”