On Oct. 15, 2011 Holger Bismann, the general manager of Patagonia Europe, died at a hospital near Munich, surrounded by his wife, Christelle Bismann, and two daughters, Helena Bismann and Johanna Bismann. He was 50.
Patagonia CEO Casey Sheahan told SNEWS Bismann had been battling an undisclosed illness since winter 2010. He described Bismann as passionate and joyful.
"Holger was such a passionate, enthusiastic ambassador for the brand," Sheahan said. "A lot of leaders are remembered for their words, some are remembered for their actions, but Holger – you just remember how wonderful it was to be in the same room as him. He was upbeat, energetic and always very happy."
Bismann’s positivity is displayed in his own words from a 2010 article on Patagonia’s website in which he stated every problem has a solution.
“Staying positive and showing a good attitude is already half the solution,” Bismann said. “I am teaching my kids that you achieve more with a smile and by not getting bothered by things. You just have to keep dreaming about things that inspire you and if you believe in it, you can do it. All is possible.”
Bismann grew up in East Germany, where as a young man he participated in an elite luge program.
He spent 15 months in jail after attempting to flee East Germany shortly after his 1988 graduation from the University of Leipzig. He saw the time as a way to learn and be appreciative of life.
“It makes you a stronger person and teaches you that you have to be positive about everything and all that we have been given,” Bismann said in the 2010 article. He kept alive his relationship with his wife Christelle, who he met in 1986, for those 15 months, until Berlin Wall came down and he was released and reunited with his family.
Later he coached the French luge team that competed in the Winter Olympic Games in Albertville, France.
Bismann joined the Patagonia team in December 2008 after working in various positions at Nike for many years. He recently served as the president of the European Outdoor Conservation Alliance. He was known as an avid marathoner, triathlete, outdoorsman and cyclist. Sheahan said Bismann could hop off a plane from Europe to California and beat his colleagues in a 75-mile ride.
"He was an incredible aerobic athlete," Sheahan said.
At a Patagonia sales meeting on Oct. 17, a room of 250 people gave Bismann a standing ovation. The company will hold a ceremony in honor of Bismann in Geneva on Nov. 19 and has made a donation in his name to the Livestrong Foundation. It will also present a video titled "Life Chronicles" to Bismann's wife and daughters that includes stories of his life from his friends and colleagues.
Bismann, Sheahan said, was "Quite an inspiration to all of us."
Patagonia employee Andrea Tomasini, managing director of Patagonia Italy, will serve as interim general manager Europe supported by Jonathan Petty, European marketing manager.