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REI CEO Stritzke resigns following investigation into personal relationship

Published February 12, 2019
COO Eric Artz named interim CEO; ‘I should have been transparent,’ Stritzke says.

SEATTLE (BRAIN) — REI president and CEO Jerry Stritzke has resigned following an investigation into a personal relationship between him and the leader of another entity in the outdoor industry. The company’s board of director’s accepted his resignation Feb. 11, and Stritzke will leave the co-op effective March 15. REI chief operating officer Eric Artz has been named interim CEO, effective immediately.

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“Jerry has been an excellent CEO for REI, and together with a strong team has consistently delivered outstanding results for our co-op,” REI board chair Steve Hooper said in a statement. “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. 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,” Hooper added.

The investigation was conducted by an external law firm and overseen by REI’s board of directors.

In a letter to REI employees Tuesday morning, Stritzke stated: “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,” Stritzke continued. “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.”

An outdoorsman and retail veteran with such brands as Coach and Victoria’s Secret, Stritzke joined REI in 2013 after previous CEO Sally Jewell was confirmed as Secretary of the Interior in the Obama administration.

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