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Patagonia's Owner Just Gave Away His $3B Company & He Doesn't Want To Be A Billionaire

"Earth is now our only shareholder."

Senior Global Editor
Patagonia owner Yvon Chouinard. Right: A woman modelling Patagonia gear in an ad.

Patagonia owner Yvon Chouinard. Right: A woman modelling Patagonia gear in an ad.

Billionaires like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett talk a big game about giving away their wealth someday, but the owner of Patagonia just beat them to it.

Yvon Chouinard, who founded Patagonia and built it into a $3-billion outdoor fashion brand, says he is giving the company away to a charity that will use all its profits to fight climate change.

"Earth is now our only shareholder," Chouinard, 83, wrote in a letter to customers on the company's website, where he explains why he made the move.

The former rock climber says he "never wanted to be a businessman," and that he fell into creating Patagonia in 1973 because he was good at making gear for his friends. The company grew into a massive apparel maker over the decades, and Chouinard tried to help the planet over that time by donating part of his profits and choosing eco-friendly materials, among other things.

But it wasn't enough, according to Chouinard. And now, at age 83, he's going all-in on saving the planet.

He explains in his letter that he tried to find the best eco-friendly way to deal with the company after his death, but the options weren't great. That's why he decided to turn the entire company over to a trust and a non-profit.

"Hopefully this will influence a new form of capitalism that doesn’t end up with a few rich people and a bunch of poor people," Chouinard told the New York Times in an interview. "We are going to give away the maximum amount of money to people who are actively working on saving this planet."

Chouinard used to live out of his car, and he still lives a very simple lifestyle despite being a billionaire on paper. He drives an old Subaru, wears old clothing, owns a few simple homes in Wyoming and doesn't even have a computer or a cellphone, the New York Times reports.

So while Chouinard will be giving up his billionaire status, it seems like he won't miss it at all.

"I was in Forbes magazine listed as a billionaire, which really, really pissed me off," Chouinard told the media outlet. "I don't have $1 billion in the bank," he said. "I don't drive Lexuses."

Chouinard says that Patagonia will likely donate about $100 million a year to green programs, and that it will remain independent so no one else can come in and violate its eco-friendly values.

"Now I could die tomorrow and the company is going to continue doing the right thing for the next 50 years," he told the newspaper.

"I don't have to be around."

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