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North Face Founder Dies in Kayaking Accident

FILE - Millionaire American conservationist Douglas Tompkins stands on his land in this file photo from January 2000 during a interview with the local media.

Douglas Tompkins, conservationist and founder of The North Face outdoor-gear brand, has died after a boating accident in Patagonia, Chile.

The regional hospital where Tompkins was treated confirmed his death Tuesday. Tompkins, 72, died of hypothermia.

Tompkins had been kayaking with friends on General Carrerra Lake, known for unpredictable weather conditions, in the Patagonia region of southern Chile. Local officials said strong waves capsized the vessels and Tompkins spent "a considerable amount of time" in waters that were less than four degrees Celsius.

None of Tompkins' companions were seriously injured.

Tompkins started The North Face company in the late 1960s in San Francisco, California, as a small outdoor-gear outfitter. The brand, which produced tents, climbing gear, and apparel, became an international staple, winning praise for quality and innovative design.

Tompkins maintained a lifelong interest in conservation. In the 1990s he sold off his business interests and moved to Patagonia, where he bought up large tracts of land to be used as nature sanctuaries and donated coastal land for national parks in Chile and Argentina.

His activities were not universally welcomed. Many Chileans and Argentines saw his opposition to salmon farming and hydroelectric dams as foreign meddling and a threat to the local economy.

Tompkins is survived by several family members and his second wife, who partnered with him on conservation efforts. The North Face company has released a statement saying its employees are "deeply saddened" at Tompkins' passing, calling him "a passionate advocate for the environment."