Legendary Entrepreneur Keith Williams Dies at 82

Larger-than-life entrepreneur Keith Williams (pictured), the former postman who developed the Sea World and Hamilton Island resorts, has passed away on the Gold Coast.

The legendary entrepreneur – one of the original members of the “white shoe brigade” on the Gold Coast – was in ill health for several years and suffered a series of strokes over recent days.

His son Ben Williams said, “Obviously his legacy is Sea World, Hamilton island more recently Port Hinchinbrook, which brought huge benefits to tourism in this country. But it was providing entertainment to people that gave him his greatest satisfaction.”

His love for water-skiing led Mr Williams to start up the Surfers Paradise Ski Gardens on the Nerang River. He became Australian water ski champion in 1959 and in 1965 staged the world championships on the Gold Coast.

In 1971 he opened Sea World. In his 40-year entrepreneurial career, Mr Williams frequently battled environmentalists and government bureaucrats opposed to his tourism projects.

Mr Williams retired in 2008 after suffering a stroke.

Ben Williams now runs Williams Corporation, which was last year embroiled in a legal battle related to the $70 million Port Hinchinbrook resort, at Cardwell in north Queensland.

Acting Queensland premier Andrew Fraser said Mr Williams was a huge force in Queensland business.

The chief executive of the Accommodation Association of Australia, Richard Munro said, “Australia’s accommodation industry and tourism more broadly has lost an outstanding trail-blazer in Keith Williams.

“His is a great Australian story – rising from humble beginnings through sheer hard work to become one of the nation’s great tourism entrepreneurs. It’s not overstating his influence to say that just about anyone who has been to Queensland for a holiday has been a beneficiary of Keith’s foresight.”

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