W Galen Weston, Canadian retail tycoon behind Primark and Selfridges, dies at 80

W Galen Weston, the patriarch of one of Canada’s wealthiest families and a retail titan, has died aged 80.

Weston was the third generation of his family to lead George Weston Limited, an already prosperous retail empire founded by his grandfather, which he expanded significantly.

The company, now run by his son, Galen Weston, controls Selfridges in the UK, as well as the Canadian grocery chain Loblaws, the pharmacy chain Shoppers Drug Mart and the real estate company Choice Properties. The wider family empire also includes the luxury store Fortnum & Mason, along with food brands including Twinings teas, Kingsmill Bakery and Dorset Cereals.

Weston, who had Canadian and British nationality, died peacefully at home after a long illness, a statement from his family said.

He was born in Buckinghamshire, England, and moved to Dublin at 21 to escape a domineering father, the Irish Times reported in 2014, where he met a model, Hilary Frayne. They married in 1966.

His grandmother gave him the funds to launch a line of retailers in Ireland, one of which eventually became Primark under the parent company Associated British Foods, which is now listed on the London stock exchange.

ABF is today owned by the British branch of the Weston family (his nephew George G Weston is chief executive), and its other brands include Twinings. ABF is in turn majority-owned by the UK family’s holding company Wittington Investments, which has Fortnum & Mason.

In the 1970s Weston returned to his family’s base of operations, Canada, to revive the family’s struggling Loblaws supermarket chain, and helped turn it into one of the largest food distributors in the country.

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

Alannah Weston, Weston Sr’s daughter and the chair of Selfridges Group, said: “The luxury retail industry has lost a great visionary.”

The Weston family are among the wealthiest in Canada, with Forbes estimating their total wealth at $8.7bn.