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Canyon Ranch announces death of founder Mel Zuckerman

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Melvin “Mel” Zuckerman, industry legend and founder of iconic US wellness lifestyle brand Canyon Ranch, has died aged 94 years.

Revered as one of the early pioneers of the wellness movement, Zuckerman opened the flagship Canyon Ranch property in Tucson, Arizona, in 1978 to help people rebalance their minds, bodies and spirits. He believed in an integrative approach combining holistic methods, treatments and evidence from both western and eastern healing practices.

Zuckerman’s health philosophy emphasised the importance of exercise, a nutritious diet and investing time in nurturing one’s mental wellbeing.

The mastermind behind Canyon Ranch

Born in 1928, Zuckerman came to health and wellness later in life after being diagnosed with asthma as a child and told to avoid physical activity.

Once he reached his 50s, Zuckerman felt burnt out and unhealthy while working as a real estate developer and decided to visit a weight loss retreat in California.

By the end of the experience, Zuckerman was buoyed with new knowledge and purpose and decided to totally rethink and reprioritise his approach to wellbeing. The retreat ended up being the catalyst that inspired him to start his mission to help as many people as possible live a healthier and more mindful lifestyle.

Soon after, Zuckerman and his wife liquidated all their assets, bought a 42-acre dude ranch in Tucson and launched the first Canyon Ranch destination in 1978.

After years of growing and nurturing the brand, the Zuckermans transferred ownership of Canyon Ranch in 2017 to John Goff, who had been a patron and an investor for two decades. However, the couple remained involved with the brand, living on the property and interacting with guests.

In 2023, the brand encompasses three destination wellness resorts in Tucson, Lenox (Massachusetts) and Woodside (California) respectively, as well as a day spa and fitness centre in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The brand is also set to strengthen its portfolio with two new urban clubs and a brand-new destination resort in Texas.

Industry responses and reactionsTributes have been flowing in from the spa and wellness sector after news of Zuckerman’s passing spread.

Industry veteran and hospitality and wellness specialist Kevin Kelly called Zuckerman “the father of wellness”.

“[He was] a great man and an irreplaceable figure in our industry,” he said.

Amy McDonald, CEO and CEO and founder of spa and wellness consultancy Under A Tree, added that Zuckerman was one of the sector’s “most iconic visionaries” and that “his passing will be felt throughout our industry”.

“Mel was loved because he took the time to make Canyon Ranch a family, helping individual colleagues through hard times and rewarding hard work and dedication,” announced Canyon Ranch In an official statement.

“For thousands upon thousands of guests, Mel was the personification of the brand and company that he, his wife Enid and his partner Jerry Cohen, built.

“He inspired everyone he met to discover and pursue a well way of life. As we mourn, we also celebrate the accomplishments and impact of his remarkable life. Mel will be remembered most fondly as a devoted father, grandfather, great-grandfather, loving husband, and compassionate friend.”

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Melvin “Mel” Zuckerman, industry legend and founder of iconic US wellness lifestyle brand Canyon Ranch, has died aged 94 years.

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