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In Case You Missed the Article Published in the April 5th Issue of The Resort Trades Magazine
(Vol 32, No. 4, page 24)

As a student, Keith Trowbridge recruited other Sarnians to attend Bowling Green State University in Ohio, a group that became known as “The Sarnia Stars.” This photo was taken in 1961. Back row, from left: Bob Train; Bill Geary; Carl Madery; Keith Trowbridge; Gene Fleet; Don Hunter; Ted Evans and Al Duncan; and kneeling in front: Morley Welch and Paul Burke. Submitted Photo

Cathy Dobson

In the vacation property world, Sarnia native Keith Trowbridge is a giant.

When conventional property sales were going through a rough patch in the ‘70s, Trowbridge devised a concept to attract more buyers at a lower price.

He calls it ‘vacation ownership’ but it’s more commonly known as timeshare and it’s a big business. At least three million North Americans own timeshares around the world.

“When I came up with this, Europe had timeshares, where people leased their place to people who took their vacation the same week every year,” the 81-year-old Trowbridge explained via phone from his Florida home.

“I took it a step further, where you owned that week so you could buy it, rent it, or trade it to go elsewhere. The key word is ownership.”

In 1974, Trowbridge developed the first timeshare resort in North America

on Sanibel Island in southwest Florida. All 31 units sold in 18 months.

Skeptics initially didn’t understand the advantages of owning their vacation, 

he said. But it didn’t take long before consumers embraced the idea of 

sharing the property taxes and maintenance of their vacation property 

with 50 others.

Sales took off at Trowbridge’s Captran Resorts International Inc. 

What began as a $500,000-a-year business earned $50 million annually

and employed 800 at its peak.

By the time Trowbridge sold Captran, he had developed 35 timeshare resorts 

in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean, and life had taken him and his family far from his Sarnia roots.

Trowbridge was raised in a home on Lakeshore Road and graduated from SCITS.

“When I grew up there, I thought Sarnia was the greatest place in the world,” he said.

He left for Bowling Green University in Ohio, where he became student president and was named Outstanding Male Student while earning a degree in business.

Trowbridge returned briefly to Sarnia to sell life insurance, but admits he didn’t enjoy it. When offered a scholarship to earn an MBA at Bowling Green, he was gone again, and went on to earn a PhD at the University of Michigan.

Trowbridge eventually left for a job in Miami and still lives in Florida, enjoying the year-round warmth and continuing to work as founder and president of a timeshare industry headhunter company, Executive Quest, Inc.

Though he dislikes Sarnia’s climate he’s still in contact with his sister, Doreen Robertson, and other family here.

In 1981, during his busiest years in the business, Trowbridge wrote a book called “Resort Timesharing: How You Can Invest In Inflation-Proof Vacations for Life (Simon and Schuster Publishers, and still available at Amazon.com).

“I wrote it when I was going public with Captran Resorts and wanted a lot of publicity around the company,” he explained.  The book sold 40,000 copies and landed him on The Today Show.

Trowbridge is now writing an autobiography. His early life in Sarnia includes the family story of his grandparents, Tom and Jean Kemsley, who owned the Bluewater Inn at Lakeshore and Murphy Roads, which burned down when Trowbridge was a young child.

The book will also reflect on his professional life and the timeshare industry, he said.

“When others didn’t think there was a future in vacation ownership and preferred to sell whole ownership, what they didn’t realize is that they could sell one or two timeshares a day, rather than one whole ownership a month,” Trowbridge said.

Got a great business story? Contact Cathy Dobson at cathy.dobson@thesarniajournal.ca or call 226-932-0985.

Not enough credit has been given to Keith Trowbridge, “The Father of Timeshare,” for spearheading the introduction of the concept to North America. If you ever felt the urge to learn about his contributions, while at the same time being immensely entertained, you now have an excellent opportunity: In Time to Share, the new book he wrote with Barbara Hill Freeman, Keith starts at the beginning and traces his wild ride. There’s tragedy, comedy, and drama, love and hate, rags and riches. It’s a primer on real estate development. It’s also a cautionary tale.

A natural-born storyteller, in Time to Share Trowbridge introduces us to the people, places, and circumstances that shaped him. It’s an inspiring, and at times shocking, story that begins in Sarnia, Ontario, with a large and colorful extended family, all part of a centuries-old farming and fishing dynasty. A childhood that might have led to menial work in a Canadian oil refinery instead fostered his innate qualities of determination and perseverance. He made good…and then some!

Long a legend in the real estate industry, Trowbridge now looks back on an exciting life, first as a boy setting his sights on something better than he was given, and then as an exceptional student and leader, head of a large and fascinating family, mover and shaker on Sanibel, where he was a resident for thirty years, restaurant owner, conservationist, avid fisherman and boater, and even briefly a movie producer. He also drops a few names of famous people he’s met along the way, John F. Kennedy and Ted Turner among them, and tells about his experience being interviewed by Jane Pauley on the Today show. It’s all part of how he spent his “dash,” the time between his birth and today: 1937

Trowbridge’s co-author is Barbara Hill Freeman of Sanibel and Maine. Little did she know when she and her husband purchased two interval ownership weeks on Sanibel in 1983 that one day she’d write about “The Father of Timeshare.” Her background as an award-winning reporter and feature writer – “an exceptional journalist” according to Time magazine veteran editor Ray Cave – was helpful during the weekly interviews with Trowbridge over the course of more than a year. Freeman is the author of The Sparetime Gardener and co-author/photographer for a comprehensive coffee-table book about Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, where she was director of communications.

Time to Share is available in paperback (232 pages with 83 photos) at Amazon.com, Sanibel Historical Museum & Village, MacIntosh Books & Paper, and at book signings in Southwest Florida. A Kindle edition is available.

Sarnia native pioneered timeshare concept in North America

Not getting anywhere fast? Consider a Career Move.

                           Email us: keith@execq.com