A childhood trip to a Jackson Hole dude ranch introduced Robert Keith to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. This sojourn ignited a change in his family’s, and particularly his father’s, thinking. “My dad underwent his own transformation from hard-charging corporate guy to passionate environmentalist, thanks to his interactions with the people and wildlife of the Greater Yellowstone area. He taught me that some things are more sacred than the almighty dollar,” Keith says.
Robert Keith Backstory
Keith studied economics at Yale and worked on Wall Street at Morgan Stanley. Although he was good at what he did, he wasn’t satisfied with just making money. “I wasn’t very creative or introspective in my thinking and figured I’d try to make a pile of money, retire, and give back by serving on some environmental boards and giving my money away. I wanted to have an impact and improve the world, but was shockingly uncreative in how to do that. The vision of how I ought live my life began to change,” he says.
That shift led him to earn his MBA at Stanford, where he took a class on environmental entrepreneurship. The instructor was free market economist Terry Anderson, founder of the Property and Environment Research Center. Another memorable course focused on corporate environmental strategy. “My hat is off to Stanford for having nontraditional business classes like that. To take a guy like me, who cared about the environment in my personal life but didn’t see any overlap in my professional life, and move me to a new way of thinking was life changing,” Keith says.
After Stanford, he joined Trident Capital. While his skills were generously rewarded, Keith, like his father, grew restless. After visiting his parents in Cody, he dared to consider the unthinkable. “People say that you can change your job, your career, or your location, but never more than one of these at a time. Well, I went for all three,” Keith says.
Founding Beartooth Group
“Beartooth is about a love of the land, a passion for Western landscapes. That’s why I started it,” he says. “I was convinced of two facts. First, we needed more money for the necessary restoration and protection of the American West. Secondly, there was a lot of money on Wall Street and in other profit-seeking areas. So, I simply put these two ideas together and started Beartooth with a friend from business school, Carl Palmer. The whole concept was to bring more money to conservation and to provide investors with a means of doing really great conservation with their investment dollars.”
MADISON SPRING CREEK RANCH. Ranch headquarters overlooks a spring creek that Beartooth Group restored west of Bozeman, Montana.
Originally published in The Land Report Summer 2021.