REI has named interim chief executive Eric Artz as its permanent CEO, effective May 7.
Artz had served as interim CEO since February, when Jerry Stritzke, who had served as President and CEO since 2013, resigned over an undisclosed relationship that appeared to reflect a conflict of interest. Since 2014, Artz was the company’s COO; he began at REI as CFO in 2012. Prior to that, he served as CFO and in other roles at Urban Outfitters, and he spent 17 years at VF Corp.
“After a thorough national search, it was clear to us that the best person for the job was already leading the co-op,” said Steve Hooper, REI Board Chair, in a statement. “To his core, Eric believes in the purpose and impact of the co-op. Anyone who knows him well will tell you that above all, he cares deeply about the power of the outdoors to bring people together.”
Even with Stritzke’s conflict of interest taken into account, the decision to stay with Artz reflects the company’s stability even in times of executive changeover. Hooper remained positive regarding Stritzke’s exit, recognizing that “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. 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.”
REI recently reported earnings of $2.78 billion in 2018, and has reported year-over-year growth in revenues every year since 2003. The co-op has continued to establish and grow a connection with the outdoors, reinvesting more than 70% of its profits in the outdoor community and advancing sustainability across the industry. In 2019, REI will cross the $100 million mark in philanthropic giving.
The company also has expanded its outdoor gear rental program at more than 115 stores and revamped its web site for used outdoor gear.
Artz is Vice Chairman of the Board of the Outdoor Industry Association and sits on the board of the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust in Washington State. He also is an advisor to Earth Lab, part of the University of Washington’s College of the Environment.