The news these days seems to be so filled with negativity and bad behavior that I latch onto the stories that reflect the best of people. Today we learned that the billionaire founder of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, gave away his stake in the company – not part of it, not when he dies, but all of it – now.
According to the New York Times, “Rather than selling the company or taking it public, Mr. Chouinard, his wife, and two adult children have transferred their ownership of Patagonia, valued at about $3 billion, to a specially designed trust and a nonprofit organization. They were created to preserve the company’s independence and ensure that all of its profits – some $100 million a year – are used to combat climate change and protect undeveloped land around the globe.”
The family transferred the voting shares, some 2% of all shares, to a trust that will be overseen by family members and advisors and was formed to make sure the company continues to run a socially responsible business and donate all of the profits. For those among us who might cynically think that there has to be some tax-saving angle or a way to retain some profits, the transfer to the trust resulted in a $17.5 million gift tax bill to the Chouinards. The other 98% of the shares were transferred to Holdfast Collective, which can make political donations, and thus none of that transfer was eligible for any charitable tax deductions.
This idea arose as a result of the succession planning discussions that Mr. Chouinard was having with his family and advisors. According to Mr. Chouinard, “I didn’t know what to do with the company because I didn’t ever want a company,” he said from his home in Jackson, Wyo. “I didn’t want to be a businessman. Now I could die tomorrow and the company is going to continue doing the right thing for the next 50 years, and I don’t have to be around.”
There are plenty of people already stating that this plan won’t work and that the company won’t continue its success without the capitalistic incentive for profits. But, regardless of that eventual outcome, I do like the what the family is doing. They are living their values and their actions may resonate in the minds of future leaders and future generations. While not everyone can afford to give away their wealth, we can all be more thoughtful about matching our actions with our values.
Take care and stay safe.
The Mosquito Bowl: A Game of Life and Death in World War II by Buzz Bissinger
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, college football was at the height of its popularity. As the nation geared up for total war, one branch of the service dominated the aspirations of college football stars: the United States Marine Corps. Which is why, on Christmas Eve of 1944, when the 4th and 29th Marine regiments found themselves in the middle of the Pacific Ocean training for what would be the bloodiest battle of the war – the invasion of Okinawa—their ranks included one of the greatest pools of football talent ever assembled.
Within a matter of months, 15 of the 65 players in “The Mosquito Bowl” would be killed at Okinawa, by far the largest number of American athletes ever to die in a single battle. The Mosquito Bowl is the story of these brave and beautiful young men, those who survived and those who did not. It is the story of the families and the landscape that shaped them. It is a story of a far more innocent time in both college athletics and the life of the country, and of the loss of that innocence.