Retail giant W. Galen Weston has died at age 80

Retail giant W. Galen Weston has died at age 80

by Sue Jones
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W. Galen Weston, the patriarch of the Weston retail empire that owns Loblaws and other holdings, has died at age 80.

Galen Weston

W. Galen Weston has died at the age of 80. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

W. Galen Weston, the patriarch of the Weston empire that controls Loblaws and other retail holdings, has died at the age of 80.

Known as Galen Weston Sr., he died on Monday, “peacefully at home after a long illness faced with courage and dignity,” according to a statement put out by his family.

“My father’s greatest gift was inspiring those around him to achieve more than they thought possible,” said his son Galen G. Weston, known as Galen Weston Jr., who is CEO of both Loblaws and the George Weston Company Ltd.

“In our business and in his life he built a legacy of extraordinary accomplishment and joy.”

Born in England in 1940, he earned a degree at the University of Western Ontario in the 1960s. After a stint in Ireland, where he met his wife and had two children, he made Canada his main base of operations in the 1970s.

Apart from Loblaws, Weston also ran the George Weston Co., a holding company for various food and bakery brands, from the 1960s until 2016, when he retired at the age of 75 to hand the reins over to his son.

In doing so, he followed the example set by his own father, Garfield Weston, who also stepped down from control of the family business at the age of 75, in 1974, to make room for Galen Sr.

Selfridges Weston

Weston was a giant of Canadian retail. (Norm Betts/ Bloomberg)

Retail empire worth billions

Weston retained the title of chairman emeritus of both George Weston Ltd. and Loblaws, but most of the day-to-day operations of both companies have long since rested with the younger Galen Weston.

In addition to his son, he also has a daughter, Alannah Weston, and he is survived by his wife of 55 years, Hilary Weston. Galen Sr. was “particularly proud” of his wife’s stint as Ontario’s 26th lieutenant-governor, from 1997 to 2002, the family statement says.

Although he was born into what was already a significant retail empire, Weston led it through even more expansions and acquisitions once he took control in 1974. In the process, he made the Weston family the second richest in Canada, with a net worth of more than $10 billion, according to Bloomberg.

The Weston empire was founded by his grandfather George Weston, who laid the groundwork in 1882 for a retail empire that owns or controls the grocery chain Loblaws and the food conglomerate Weston, but also the fast fashion chain Primark and the department stores Holt Renfrew in Canada, Brown Thomas in Ireland, and Selfridge’s in the United Kingdom.

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