Skip to main content

North Face founder Doug Tompkins dies


Doug Tompkins, the founder of the North Face and Esprit apparel companies, died Tuesday in a kayaking accident in Chile. He was 72.

Tompkins was boating with others on a lake in Chile when his kayak capsized. Tompkins was rescued but spent a lengthy amount of time in the freezing water. He died of hypothermia in a hospital in Coyhaique.

Tompkins founded The North Face in 1964 as an outdoor outfitter and in 1968 he co-founded Esprit clothing, which would grow to do a billion dollars in sales.

Tompkins eventually sold his stakes in The North Face and Esprit and retired to Chile to use his fortune for environmental causes. He owned hundreds of thousands of acres in Patagonia, a sparsely populated region of untamed rivers and other natural beauty that straddles southern Chile and Argentina. On his Chilean land, he created Pumalin Park, 716,606 acres of forest, lakes and fjords stretching from the Andes to the Pacific.

The North Face brand is now owned by VF Corp. of Greensboro, N.C. Esprit Holdings Limited is now headquartered in China and Germany.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds