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David Gilmour, Champion of Fiji’s Water Accessibility, Passes Away at 91

David Gilmour, an entrepreneur originally from Canada, and the founder of Fiji Natural Artesian Water, passed away on June 11 in Manhattan at the age of 91. Gilmour built a luxury resort on his privately-owned island of Wakaya, located in Fiji, and turned Fiji’s local water resource into a leading bottled brand.

According to his friend and business partner, David Roth, Gilmour died from cardiac arrest.

Prior to purchasing Wakaya in 1987, Gilmour had already built a number of successful businesses spanning over three decades, including importing Scandinavian home furnishings, building high-end stereos, and co-founding a gold-mining company. However, it was the loss of his daughter that prompted Gilmour to find solace in Wakaya.

Gilmour’s vision for Wakaya was to create a peaceful retreat, away from the chaos of the world. He opened the Wakaya Club & Spa in 1990 as a place for his friends to come and experience tranquility. Despite his initial intentions for it to be a non-commercial venture, the resort gained popularity among celebrities such as Tom Cruise, Bill and Melinda Gates, and Keith Richards.

During one visit to his resort, Gilmour noticed his guests drinking Evian water. This observation led him to question why they were drinking water from Lake Geneva when Fiji possessed abundant rainfall and a more superior water source.

Gilmour discovered an underground aquifer with mineral-rich silica water beneath the volcanic highlands of Viti Levu, one of Fiji’s islands. In 1996, his company started packaging and distributing Fiji water around the world in its distinctive square bottles.

Fiji water gained popularity due to its purity, attributed to Fiji’s geographic remoteness and absence of acid rain, industrial pollution, and pesticides. Today, Fiji water is the second-largest imported water brand in the United States.

Born on November 5, 1931, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, David Gilmour grew up in Toronto. He studied business management at the University of Toronto before embarking on a year-long trip through Europe at the age of 20.

Gilmour’s entrepreneurial journey began with importing Scandinavian housewares and furnishings. In 1958, he co-founded Clairtone Sound, a company that produced highly regarded hi-fi systems. However, the company faced setbacks and ultimately faltered after expanding into television production and relocating operations to Nova Scotia.

Undeterred by this failure, Gilmour and his business partner, Peter Munk, founded Southern Pacific Properties in 1969. The company accumulated over 50 hotels in Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, and other Pacific islands. Although their plans for a development near the pyramids in Giza, Egypt were thwarted, they continued their business ventures, including their involvement in Barrick Gold, one of the world’s largest gold producers.

In the 1990s, Gilmour sold Fiji Water to Roll International and Wakaya to Clare Bronfman. However, he retained ownership of Wakaya Perfection, a wellness company that specializes in ginger and turmeric products grown in volcanic soil in Fiji and Nicaragua. Gilmour’s commitment to organic, high-quality products garnered attention, including Oprah Winfrey featuring Wakaya Perfection as one of her favorite things on two occasions.

David Gilmour is survived by his wife, Jillian Gilmour. His impact on Fiji’s water accessibility and his contributions to the business world will be remembered.

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