David Gilmour, the founder of Fiji Water has passed away at his home in Manhattan.
He was 91.
He was a Canadian-born entrepreneur who made millions in real estate and gold mining, but who remained best known for bringing a glamorous, square-edged approach to hydration.
His wife Jillian Gilmour says the cause was cardiac arrest.
By the time he came up with the idea for Fiji Water in the early 1990s, Gilmour had amassed a fortune from his business ventures with Peter Munk, a friend from his college days in Toronto.
Together they launched a popular stereo company, Clairtone Sound; assembled a chain of more than 50 hotels across the South Pacific; and funneled their earnings into a Canadian oil company that evolved into the world’s largest gold mining business, Barrick Gold.
Their collaboration took Gilmour around the world, to mines in Northern Ontario and a proposed hotel site near the Egyptian pyramids, although he kept returning to Wakaya, a tiny Fiji island that he first visited in the early 1970s.
The island was home to lush forests, white sand beaches and turquoise lagoons, and became a refuge for Gilmour after the death of his only child, Erin Gilmour, who was slain in her Toronto apartment in 1983, at age 22.
Gilmour built a reservoir, airstrip and jetty on the island, as well as a 12,000-square-foot villa he called Vale O, or House in the Clouds on Wakaya Island.
In 1990, he opened the Wakaya Club & Spa, an exclusive resort that he jokingly referred to as “a place to put the overflow guests” from his home.
The resort’s eight thatched-roof suites were reserved by celebrities including Bill Gates, Nicole Kidman, Paris Hilton and Keith Richards, and staff lived nearby at a new “company town.”
At the center of the community was a red-roofed church with a set of stained glass windows that served as a memorial to Gilmour’s daughter.
To promote the brand, Gilmour worked his Hollywood connections to get the bottles placed on television shows including “The Sopranos” and “Ally McBeal.”
He also lobbied for Fiji Water to be carried by luxury restaurants and hotels, and vouched for the purity himself: He never drank tap water, he told the Times of London, and always traveled with bottles from Fiji.
“I brush my teeth with it,” he said.
By 2004, Fiji Water was reportedly the second-biggest imported water brand in the United States, behind only Evian.
Fiji Water was sold in 2004 to Roll International, a private Los Angeles-based company now called the Wonderful Co., owned by billionaires Stewart and Lynda Resnick for a reported $50 million.
In what he described as a tribute to his daughter, he used his business earnings to build several preschools in Fiji and across the United States.
More recently, he was working on one last business venture, Wakaya Perfection, a health and wellness company that he founded with David M. Roth.
The business specializes in organic ginger, turmeric and kava.
Launching the company, Gilmour told Palm Beach Illustrated, was the most important thing he has ever done.
Source: Washington Post
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