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Doug Tompkins (1943 - 2015)


Doug Tompkins (1943 - 2015)

Doug Tompkins, an American business entrepreneur who co-founded The North Face chain of outdoor clothing stores and later became a conservationist, died Tuesday in a kayaking accident in Coyhaique, Chile, according to the Chilean navy. He was 72.

Tompkins, who moved to Chile after selling The North Face as well as his financial stake in the Esprit clothing line, was kayaking along with five other people. Strong winds resulted in the capsizing of their kayaks. All six people were rescued, according a news release posted on the navy's website, but Tompkins died later at a hospital. He had spent a lot of time in the chilly water.

The death also was confirmed by Alison Kelman, the spokeswoman for the Conservation Land Trust, which Tompkins founded to carry out conservation efforts in Chile and Argentina. He and his wife, Kristine McDivitt-Tompkins, collaborated in the creation of national parks in Chile. They bought and rehabilitated thousands of acres of land in the process.

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In many cases, the couple bought private lands and gave them back to the Chilean and Argentine governments. He once explained that it's "pretty hard for a country to turn down a gift of 300,000 hectares."

In Argentina, when he clashed with government officials, including Argentina's late president, Nester Kirchner, he told them, "Hey, look, guys. We are taking land from the private sector – sometimes buying it from foreigners – and giving it back to the state." Such a gift, Tompkins said, "has a tendency to quell a lot of waters."

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