Specialty outdoor retailer REI has announced that chief operating officer Eric Artz will take the helm as interim CEO, effective immediately. He succeeds president and CEO Jerry Stritzke, who has resigned and will be leaving the co-op on March 15.

Stritzke, who has served as president and CEO of REI since October 2013, resigned for not properly disclosing a personal and consensual relationship with the leader of another organization in the outdoor industry, the retailer stated.

An external law firm found no financial misconduct when investigating the matter. Stritzke, however, acknowledged that the facts led to a perceived conflict of interest, which he should have disclosed under the REI conflict of interest policy.

The board accepted Strizke’s resignation and, in an open letter to employees, thanked him for his many contributions to co-op.

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

Continued Hooper, “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.”

In an open letter to employees, Strizke stated, “I love REI, and I believe fiercely that the work that the co-op has done for 80 years has had an unmatched positive impact on the outdoors. I feel incredibly fortunate to have led this organization. REI is full of amazing people and I am grateful for the role the co-op has played in my life, even in the toughest times.”

Continued Stritzke, “I regret few things in life, but I am sorry that I did not disclose the relationship, and it’s time for the co-op to have a new leader. The last thing I want is to damage REI, and I deeply regret that any of this could impact the co-op. You deserve better. Even so, the co-op is in a great place and I have enormous confidence in Eric and the leadership team and the thousands of employees of REI to get REI to next.”

REI is the nation’s largest consumer co-op, with a growing community of more than 17 million members. Headquartered in Kent, REI has 154 stores in 35 states and the District of Columbia.

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Thumbnail Photo: Courtesy of REI