For 13 years she’d been chief executive officer of Patagonia, the California outdoor apparel company famous for its high-end parkas, eco-activism, and advertisements to shop less. Starting as an assistant packer at 19 during a college summer, she had figured out whatever needed figuring out when founder and owner Yvon Chouinard’s method for underwriting his hobbies—fly fishing, mountaineering, surfing—became a growing business in the early 1970s. On her watch, the company more than quadrupled to $120 million-plus in annual revenue.
In 1976, Kristine Tompkins was general manager of Patagonia, working with Chouinard and his wife, Malinda, to establish the young clothing company, a spin-off of Chouinard Equipment, based in Ventura, Calif. A former ski racer and friend of Chouinard, Tompkins had first worked at the equipment company during summer vacations. She returned to work there fulltime after graduating from the College of Idaho with a degree in history in 1972.
Tompkins became Patagonia’s general manager in 1975 and was named CEO four years later.
McDivitt and Tompkins married in 1994, the second time for both, then embarked on one of the most ambitious private conservation projects on the planet.