After a "thorough national search," REI Co-op's board of directors decided to stick with its interim CEO, naming Eric Artz to the position on a permanent basis and adding the role of president, effective immediately, according to a company press release.
He had been serving 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.
Artz joined REI in 2012 as chief financial officer and two years later was promoted to chief operating officer. In those roles he has overseen digital retail, finance, corporate strategy and IT, among other departments. Before that he served as CFO and in other roles at Urban Outfitters and spent 17 years at VF Corp. He is the eighth person to serve as chief executive in REI's 81-year history, according to the company.
REI has done well under the leadership of Stritzke and his team, which has included Artz, so this move likely bodes well for the retailer's ability to continue on its path.
Stritzke's departure had threatened to stymie some nice momentum, which included the brand's now famous and much imitated #OptOutside campaign. Last year the retailer notched a record $2.78 billion in net sales and the addition of one million new co-op members to its total of more than 18 million. The company has also expanded its rental program, sales of used gear and its paddling business.
Stritzke appears to have left in an abundance of caution, as an investigation by an outside law firm in the end revealed no financial or other misconduct. But board members have previously said, and Stritzke himself publicly agreed, that he should have informed them of his relationship with a leader of another organization in the outdoor industry and that his lack of transparency failed to meet REI's standards for its executives.
Artz said that in 2019, REI will have given more than $100 million to philanthropic organizations, much of that dedicated to sustainability and the environment. "Our purpose at REI — our reason for being — is to awaken a lifelong love for the outdoors, for all," he said in a statement. "Because if we can't help people to be connected with nature, how can we expect them to care for the long-term health of the planet?"
In addition to his work at REI, Artz is vice chairman of the board of the Outdoor Industry Association, sits on the board of the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust in Washington and is an adviser to the University of Washington College of the Environment's Earth Lab, according to the release.