This week we say farewell to Chip Bergh, who is retiring after 12 years as CEO of Levi Strauss & Co. To mark the occasion, employees and partners have spent the month coming together to celebrate Chip and all he has done for the company.
You don’t have to look far to see the impressive and profound legacy Chip crafted during his time at LS&Co. The financial growth, the portfolio diversification, the Levi’s® brand’s return to the center of culture — these all speak for themselves.
As LS&Co. Chairman Emeritus Bob Haas put it during Chip’s farewell reception at our San Francisco headquarters last week, “When Chip arrived at LS&Co. after 28 productive years at Procter & Gamble, he found the company in stagnation with a brand he described as ‘broken.’ As we have seen, Chip was the right leader to restore the company to greatness. … Like the phoenix, a bird renowned for rising from the ashes, Chip has renewed LS&Co. and paved the way for future growth.”
What has had an even more resounding effect, however, is the impact Chip has personally had on so many LS&Co. employees and partners over the years — just by being himself. This shone through in the stories and memories employees shared about Chip during a recent town hall, from encouraging one employee that she was the right person for a job she now excels in, to showing empathy and vulnerability to another employee in a moment when it was most needed.
These overwhelmingly positive memories weren’t by chance. They came about because of Chip’s leadership philosophy.
“For the last 25 years I’ve been paraphrasing the Maya Angelou quote, ‘People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,’” Chip shared with employees at his farewell reception. “My version has been, ‘Nobody will remember me for what I did for the business, they will remember me for what I did for them.’ Because that’s what I’ve come to realize true leadership is. Not standing in front of a group of people sounding smart. It’s picking someone up when they’re down, saying the right thing at the right moment. One smile or word of encouragement can change the course of someone’s career.”
To celebrate his impact on LS&Co., Chip was surprised last week with a few parting gifts. First, to recognize his consistent and persistent championing of our values and embodying of our profits-through-principles philosophy, the board of directors is making a $250,000 donation in Chip’s name to the Red Tab Foundation, our employee hardship fund that Chip supported throughout his tenure. The Levi Strauss Foundation, of which Chip was also a board member, also announced that they have set aside $100,000 for him to donate to a nonprofit of his choice.
Second, to commemorate him bringing our Eureka Innovation Lab to San Francisco and putting innovation at the forefront of what we do here at LS&Co., the Eureka team gave Chip a customized Type I Trucker jacket, “because it’s O.G., like Chip,” explained Bart Sights, Eureka’s leader. The Trucker features the Eureka logo and a handstitched American flag, along with an indigo shibori pattern lining that for 700 years was reserved only for the top officers of the shogun. “The chevron dates back to the Spartan warriors. They wore it on their shields. It signifies the leader. That’s been you, and we deeply appreciate you,” Bart said as he presented Chip the jacket.
And finally, no celebration of Chip would be complete without acknowledging one of his early accomplishments as CEO: securing the naming rights to Levi’s® Stadium and solidifying a longstanding partnership with the San Francisco 49ers football team. To honor the partnership — and because Chip is a Niners fan for life — LS&Co. is giving him two tickets to every Niners home game at Levi’s® Stadium for life, and the 49ers organization awarded him with his own commemorative team jersey, signed by the 2023-24 season players.
“Chip and Levi’s® deserve a lot of credit for our growth on and off the field,” 49ers President Al Guido said while presenting Chip’s jersey at his reception. “With Chip we knew we had a partner willing to bring marquee events to the region. We wouldn’t have hosted Super Bowl 50 without him, and he was instrumental in us landing Super Bowl 60 and the FIFA World Cup in 2026. Levi’s® didn’t need the 49ers to accomplish what they’ve accomplished — but the 49ers needed Chip and Levi’s® to accomplish what we have.”
“It has been a privilege and an honor to lead such an iconic company,” Chip shared at the end of his reception. “I leave feeling great about everything we accomplished together, and optimistic about the future of the company. I have so much confidence in Michelle as LS&Co.’s next leader and the executive team to take this company forward. I’m looking forward to seeing you take the accomplishments of the last 12+ years and multiplying them tenfold.”
Thank you, Chip, for everything you’ve done for LS&Co. We can’t wait to see what you do next — whatever it is, we know it will be great.