Shopping at Urban Outfitters is designed to feel like an exercise in being a young, urban hipster; you know, the kind who’s into rooftop gardening, skinny jeans, vinyl and cheeky books about marijuana. But the dude who owns the company? Well, he’s pretty much the opposite of that.
Meet Richard Hayne, the 63-year-old founder and chairman of Urban Outfitters, whose net worth Forbes reports at $1.4 billion, putting him at #262 on the list of the 400 Richest People in America.
Hayne started a company called The Free People (yep, that one) in 1970 as a young hippie, selling clothes to kids outside of the University of Pennsylvania. Today, Hayne’s property includes Free People, Anthropologie and UO, and Terrain, a new gardening company.
Liberal activists have long called for a boycott of UO, due to Hayne’s conservative political beliefs, and the fact that he puts his money where his mouth is. He and his wife Margaret have contributed $13,150 to Republican Sen. Rick Santorum (a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage) and his Political Action Committee over the years. He also donated $10,000 to Meg Whitman’s campaign for governor.
Urban came under fire in 2008 when it suddenly pulled the above shirt, which expresses support for same-sex marriage, from stores. The company claims the shirt was pulled due to slumping sales, but others alleged political sympathies stemming from Hayne. Glen Senk, the current CEO of UO, is an openly gay man.
There’s been controversy associated with UO in recent years; Miley Cyrus even ranted against the brand for allegedly stealing an Etsy artist’s jewelry design. And it’s no doubt ironic that all of the (mostly) liberal, indie-minded hipsters swarming Urban Outfitters at all hours are perhaps unknowingly padding the pockets of Hayne and his conservative beneficiaries.
Would you stop shopping at a store because you disagreed with the CEO’s political beliefs? Does that affect how you feel about Urban Outfitters?