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David Gilmour, the Entrepreneur Behind Fiji Water, Passes Away at the Age of 91


[David Gilmour, a Canadian-born entrepreneur who amassed great wealth through business ventures in real estate and gold mining, passed away on June 11 at his Manhattan home at the age of 91. Known for bringing an elegant and innovative approach to hydration as the founder of Fiji water, Gilmour left a lasting legacy in the industry.

Gilmour’s journey to creating Fiji water began in the early 1990s, after achieving financial success alongside his friend Peter Munk. Together, they established various profitable businesses, including Clairtone Sound, a popular stereo company, and a chain of hotels across the South Pacific. Their investments in a Canadian oil company eventually led to the formation of Barrick Gold, the world’s largest gold mining business.

While their collaborative ventures took Gilmour to different parts of the world, it was the tiny Fiji island of Wakaya that captured his heart. A place of serene beauty, it became a sanctuary for Gilmour following the tragic murder of his daughter in 1983. He developed the island, constructing essential infrastructure and creating an exclusive resort called the Wakaya Club & Spa.

With its thatched-roof suites, the resort became a haven for celebrities such as Bill Gates, Nicole Kidman, Paris Hilton, and Keith Richards. The community surrounding the resort flourished, centered around a red-roofed church serving as a tribute to Gilmour’s daughter. Wakaya became Gilmour’s source of inspiration, with the island providing him with ideas for his future business ventures.

Inspiration struck when Gilmour observed a guest using an imported bottle of Evian water on the Wakaya golf course. He realized the potential of utilizing Fiji’s natural water sources instead. In 1999, Gilmour founded Fiji water, investing millions of dollars to launch the business. Distinctive square bottles, featuring a hibiscus flower and an explanation of the water’s pure source, became the brand’s signature.

Gilmour capitalized on his Hollywood connections, securing product placements on shows like “The Sopranos” and “Ally McBeal” to promote the Fiji water brand. He also aimed to have the water featured in luxury establishments. Gilmour’s personal preference for the purity of Fiji water was well-known, as he insisted on using it for various purposes.

By 2004, Fiji water had established itself as the second most popular imported water brand in the United States, trailing only Evian. In 2004, Gilmour sold the business to Roll International for $50 million. While the environmental impact of bottled water has drawn criticism, Fiji water remains a successful commercial enterprise and continues to be one of the top-selling imported water brands in the United States.

Gilmour was not content with maintaining corporate responsibility over his businesses for long periods. He had a propensity for selling them once they achieved significant success, preferring to focus on generating new ideas rather than managing established ones. His entrepreneurial spirit led him to constant innovation and development.

Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on November 5, 1931, Gilmour grew up in Toronto, where his father worked in finance and his mother pursued a career in opera. His formative years involved travel and exploration, and after graduating from high school, he embarked on a solo adventure across Europe, funded by his father.

Business studies at the University of Toronto followed, and Gilmour began his entrepreneurial journey by selling household items door-to-door. He went on to establish his first company, Dansk Design, which specialized in modern Scandinavian furniture and housewares.

In 1958, Gilmour partnered with Peter Munk to form Clairtone Sound. The company gained recognition for its futuristic stereos and even featured in movies alongside prominent figures like Frank Sinatra and Sean Connery. However, the company faced challenges when it expanded into television and relocated its manufacturing facilities. Gilmour and Munk eventually left the company, which subsequently collapsed.

Undeterred by this setback, Gilmour continued to work alongside Munk on various ventures, including Barrick Gold and TrizecHahn, a real estate business. He maintained a close relationship with Munk, considering him a brother. Gilmour married Jillian Sweeney in 1981, and they resided in New York and Palm Beach.

As a tribute to his daughter, Gilmour utilized his business earnings to establish preschools in Fiji and across the United States. He also embarked on his final business venture, Wakaya Perfection, a health and wellness company specializing in organic ginger, turmeric, and kava. This venture held great personal significance to Gilmour, as he considered it the most important endeavor of his life.

David Gilmour’s contributions to the world of entrepreneurship and his innovative approach to the beverage industry have left an indelible mark. He will be remembered as a visionary who brought elegance and ingenuity to the realm of hydration.


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