Ryan Gellert, the company’s new top exec, wants to make Patagonia more global and translate its planet-saving mission into specific causes to champion.
Patagonia has named Ryan Gellert, its Amsterdam-based managing director of Europe, Middle East, and Africa for the last six years, as its new CEO. The announcement comes just over three months since Rose Marcario stepped down from the top spot after 12 years at the company.
Chief operating officer Doug Freeman has been interim leader as the privately held company’s board and founder Yvon Chouinard searched for Marcario’s successor.
Turns out, he was already in the building (sort of).
The 48-year-old Gellert, who originally hails from Florida, first joined Patagonia in 2014 after spending 15 years at the outdoor brand Black Diamond, in roles that included managing director in Asia, vice president of supply-chain management, and, eventually, brand president.
The shift in leadership comes as the company has continued ramping up its activism around the U.S. election, with initiatives like Time to Vote, launching the public lands protection documentary Public Trust later this week, and helping to fund LeBron James’s More Than a Vote poll worker recruitment campaign.
Oh, and planting less-than-subliminal messages in its clothing.
Along with Gellert’s appointment, Patagonia has also done some executive restructuring, naming Jenna Johnson, its VP of technical outdoor, to the newly created position of head of Patagonia, and chief product officer Lisa Williams is now head of innovation, design, and development. According to the company, the restructuring is aimed at more clearly aligning its various business units with its mission and outdoor sports communities.
It’s a critical time for a company many view as a North Star when it comes to not only living and breathing its values, but also using activism around environmental protection and fighting climate change to actually make its business stronger. As a retailer, it’s felt all the familiar challenges of the pandemic—closed stores, disrupted supply chains, sales declines—but remember, this is a business with a mission to “save our home planet.” Yet its home state of California is essentially on fire, and the stakes of the upcoming U.S. presidential election could determine the fate of public lands and environmental policy for years to come.
Fast Company talked to both Gellert and Johnson about their new jobs, and how they’re plotting the next chapter in Patagonia’s history.