Douglas Tompkins, a noted conservationist and the founder of the clothing brands North Face and Esprit, died on Tuesday December 8 2015 after a kayaking accident on General Carrera Lake in the Patagonia region of southern Chile. He was 72.
Mr. Tompkins was boating with five others when their kayaks capsized. Mr. Tompkins died in the intensive care unit of the hospital in Coyhaique, a town more than 1,000 miles south of Santiago.
A lifelong outdoorsman, Mr. Tompkins made his fortune in retailing, but would later shun the business world to pursue his passion for nature and conservationism.
Douglas Rainsford Tompkins was born March 20, 1943, in Ohio. The family briefly lived in New York City before settling in Millbrook in the Hudson Valley.
Mr. Tompkins attended Connecticut’s Pomfret School, but never finished and did not attend college. Instead, he set off in search of adventure. At age 17, he headed to Colorado, working in Aspen and squirreling away money for a year before flying to Europe to ski the Alps. He then traipsed through the Andes and South America until his money ran out in 1962, forcing him to return to the United States for work.
Mr. Tompkins founded the North Face as a small ski and backpacking retail shop in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood in the mid-1960s. The global apparel company VF Corporation purchased the North Face in 2000.
Susie Tompkins Buell was married to Mr. Tompkins from 1964 until 1989. But by 1990, he had grown disillusioned with the corporate world, and sold his stake in Esprit for what was reported as more than $150 million. Mr. Tompkins and Ms. Buell remained in touch even after Mr. Tompkins and his second wife, Kristine, a former chief executive of the clothing company Patagonia, moved to South America.
In addition to his wife and his daughter Summer Tompkins Walker, Mr. Tompkins is survived by his mother, Faith, his brother, John, and daughter Quincey Tompkins Imhoff.