Senior Vice President & General Counsel, REI
Transitioning one CEO out of a company and a new one into it can be a complicated time for a corporate counselor. Add an outgoing CEO who’s joining the sitting president’s Cabinet, and REI General Counsel Catherine Walker had her hands full in 2013.
When REI chief Sally Jewell was tapped to become the Secretary of Interior last year, the nomination was a source of pride at the company. It also represented a challenge for Walker, who needed to assist Jewell in her nomination, but also disconnect her from the company she ran.
“It was highly unusual for the CEO of an enterprise to be picked (for Interior Secretary), and we needed to be very thoughtful moving through the nomination process,” Walker says. “All 11,000 of our employees were excited when it was announced. But we had to make sure there were clear lines between REI business and Sally Jewell business.”
As Walker established those boundaries and compiled materials that could assist Jewell in her nomination, she was also one of two REI executives tasked with finding a new CEO for the company. This meant working with a search firm, taking an early run through candidate profiles, coordinating with the board on possible choices and collaborating on final decisions.