Close this search box.

Former Vale do Lobo owner Sander van Gelder dies aged 85

Sander van Gelder, the Dutch entrepreneur best known for turning the Algarve’s luxury resort Vale do Lobo into a success story, passed away on Sunday (May 14), at the age of 85, in the Netherlands.

Born in Amsterdam in 1937, Mr van Gelder discovered Vale do Lobo during a holiday in the mid-1970s. His initial goal was simply to purchase a holiday, but after having recognised the resort’s potential, he decided to buy it and moved to Portugal in 1977.

“At that time, the image of Portugal wasn’t famous as the revolution had shaken the credibility of Portuguese institutions. But although specialists advised against investing economically in the country, I decided to take a risk,” the entrepreneur told Correio da Manhã over 20 years ago.

The resort was run under his ownership for the next 30 years, a period in which an 18-hole golf course and many facilities including bars, restaurants and shops were built.

Vale do Lobo went on to thrive, cementing its place in the so-called Golden Triangle consisting of Vilamoura, Quinta do Lago, and, of course, Vale do Lobo. His work at Vale do Lobo was recognised by the Portuguese government which awarded him a ‘Gold Medal of Touristic Merit’ in 2004.

In 2007, Mr van Gelder sold Vale do Lobo to a group of Portuguese and international investors, including the largest national bank Caixa Geral de Depósitos.

Alda Filipe, presently Regional Director at Kronos Homes who worked alongside Mr Sander van Gelder for many years, has elaborated on the impact that the entrepreneur had on the region as a whole.

“A truly exceptional person has passed away. We must honour and remember the extraordinary legacy of Mr. Sander van Gelder, the beloved ‘father’ and visionary behind Vale do Lobo Resort for over 30 years (1977-2007),” she said.

“Mr van Gelder’s dedication, leadership, and entrepreneurial spirit were the driving forces behind the remarkable success of Vale do Lobo. With his unparalleled insight, he envisioned a community that seamlessly blended luxury, natural beauty, and a vibrant lifestyle.

For three decades, Mr. van Gelder guided Vale do Lobo with unwavering commitment, nurturing its growth and transforming not only the place but also the entire Algarve region into a world-renowned destination.”

Alda Filipe added: “On a personal level, I had the privilege of working closely with Mr van Gelder for many years, and he had an immense impact on my life, both personally and professionally. He not only served as my mentor but also challenged me to push beyond my limits, encouraged me to embrace new opportunities, and inspired me to strive for excellence. Together, we shared countless unforgettable moments.

“The legacy left by Mr. van Gelder is enormous and will forever remain present in Vale do Lobo and in the lives of all those who had the privilege of crossing his path.”

Text & Photo:
The Portugal Resident