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Founder of Austin-based Outdoor Voices returns to company after shocking resignation

Founder of Austin's Outdoor Voices returns after shocking resignation

Tyler Haney Outdoor Voices
Tyler Haney is returning to the company she built. Courtesy of Outdoor Voices

Four months after stepping down as CEO, Outdoor Voices' founder Tyler Haney is back and #doingthings. In a June 29 interview with Vogue, Haney says she's returning to her athleisure company as an active board member.

Haney began the company, headquartered in East Austin, in 2013, based on the idea that recreation wasn't just about performance, but a lifestyle. For seven years she led the startup from online-only retail to 11 brick-and-mortar locations, including its Clarksville flagship.

Earlier this year, Haney's very public departure from OV ignited a media firestorm, culminating in a bombshell New York Times piece largely relying on unnamed sources. Haney, who said on Instagram she had signed documents preventing her from talking about the deal, remained mum. But with the brand so tied to its founder, both fans and the fashion world were left wondering what was next for OV.

While we don't know everything, we do know that leading the next iteration of Outdoor Voices is Lunya founder Ashley Merrill. Merrill is both OV's latest investor and its newly minted chairwoman of the board where she will work closely with the company's executive team. Financial details of Merrill's investment, which was through her VC firm, NaHCO3, remain undisclosed, but an OV statement describes it as a private investment. 

“I have been a long-time customer and fan of Outdoor Voices’ brand and mission to ‘Get the World Moving,’” Merrill said in a release. “I am thrilled to be joining Team OV and look forward to bringing my experiences at Lunya to help build a healthy, sustainable business that drives value for our team, customers, and community."

Merrill's new post was previously held by Mickey Wexler, the former J.Crew Group chairman. Under Wexler's watch, Outdoor Voices went from a $110 million valuation in 2018 to just $40 million valuation in 2020, according to the New York Times. Wexler stepped down as OV chairman last summer. 

In their interview with Vogue, both Haney and Merrill say this is a turning point for the company, who is searching for a new CEO and placing more emphasis on making more female, Black, and POC hires at the executive level — something the company was criticized for earlier this year in that series of reports following Haney's departure. 

“The vision for OV is the same as it always was: to build the number one recreation company and get the world moving,” Haney says in Vogue. “But ‘how’ we get there has significantly changed, and for the better."

Neither the release from Outdoor Voices nor the Vogue article give details on the "how," but how the retail company has pivoted during the COVID-19 crisis may give us some insight. Among its recent endeavors are collaborations with at-home fitness brands and launching "Virtual Recess," an Instagram Live fitness class designed to keep people moving during the pandemic. 

As for Haney, she tells Vogue she's "excited" to be in her new position. “I have appreciated taking some time to step away from the day-to-day operations of the company," she said. "I have been able to really look at what I am great at, what energizes me, and where I can add the most value to the company."