The billionaire owner of Hobby Lobby says he is giving away his ownership of the company and cites his Christian faith for the decision.
“I chose God,” wrote David Green, 80, in an op-ed for Fox News on Friday.
Green founded the arts and crafts retail chain in Oklahoma in 1970 on a $600 loan, according to Forbes. Since then, Hobby Lobby has blossomed into a multibillionaire company with 970 stores across the country. Green is currently worth an estimated $13.7 billion.
However, as Green amassed a great amount of wealth, he became fixated on the question if he was an owner of the company and his wealth or a steward — which he defines as: “a manager of what you’ve been entrusted with.”
As an owner, there are certain rights and responsibilities, including the right to sell the company and keep the profits for yourself and your family. As our company grew, that idea began to bother me more and more. Well-meaning attorneys and accountants advised me to simply pass ownership down to my children and grandchildren. It didn’t seem fair to me that I might change or even ruin the future of grandchildren who had not even been born yet.
As Green became turned off by the idea that he was the owner of his wealth, he came to realize that his wealth did not come from anything he did himself but rather from God.
“God was the true owner of my business,” Green stated.
He further wrote:
That stewardship gave me a greater responsibility. I wasn’t supposed to take the profits of the business and use them for myself. I also had a responsibility to the employees that God had put in my charge.
Green cited that part of stewarding the company was closing his stores on Sunday — the most profitable day of the week — and paying his employees a minimum of $18.50.
When Green accepted that he was a steward rather than an owner, he said it made it much easier to give away the company.
He also noted that his decision was partly inspired by Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard’s recent decision to give his company away, as well as Alan Barnhart of construction giant Barnhart Crane — who also calls himself a steward. While Chouinard announced an extensive plan in September to give his company away to environmental trusts, Green did not do so in his op-ed, as he instead focused on the reasons why he gave up ownership.
Green, who has been politically involved in the Conservative movement, was at the forefront of some major turning points in the mid-2010s.
In 2014, Hobby Lobby won a landmark Supreme Court case, in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, after they sued the Obama administration for forcing the company to cover abortion-related drugs for its employees under an Obamacare mandate. The court found that the mandate violated the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act.
In September 2016, Green wrote another op-ed in USA Today that endorsed Donald Trump for president while simultaneously denouncing Hillary Clinton as someone who would disregard the fate of millions of Christians in the nation. The op-ed came at a time when some Christians were on the fence as to whether they would support Trump or not.
You can follow Ethan Letkeman on Twitter at @EthanLetkeman.