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RIP Brown Thomas and Arnotts owner billionaire Galen Weston has died aged 80

The retail mogul and his family built a vast empire on both sides of the Atlantic, owning the Irish luxury department store Brown Thomas as well as Arnotts and the UK-based Selfridges Group.

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Galen Weston

Galen Weston

Galen Weston

The Irish-Canadian billionaire Galen Weston has died following a long illness at his Toronto home at the age of 80, his family announced last night.

The retail mogul and his family built a vast empire on both sides of the Atlantic, owning the Irish luxury department store Brown Thomas as well as Arnotts and the UK-based Selfridges Group. They also acquired a majority stake in Associated British Foods, the company that owns Penneys in Ireland and Primark in the UK.

The family also owns Canada’s largest retail food chain, Loblaw, as well as Canadian luxury retailer Holt Renfrew and other holdings.

He stepped down as chairman of George Weston Limited in 2016 to make room for his son Galen G Weston, who is now the company’s CEO and chairman.

He married the former Irish model Hilary Frayne in 1966 who went to become Ontario’s lieutenant-governor, a post she held for five years.

He was described by his family as “a dutiful son, a beloved husband, a proud father, a devoted grandfather, a loving brother, who dedicated his life to the service of his family, his businesses, and his community."

After his retirement, he continued what his family described as “his lifelong commitment to philanthropy through the Weston Family Foundation in Canada and the Selfridges Group Foundation in the UK.

“Through 55 years of a deeply loving marriage, Galen and his wife Hilary supported each other in family, business and community engagements. He was particularly proud of Hilary’s five-year term as Ontario’s 26th Lieutenant Governor and she was his constant collaborator on every aspect of the luxury retail group,” the family said in a statement.

“My father’s greatest gift was inspiring those around him to achieve more than they thought possible.” said Galen G Weston Jr.

“In our business and in his life he leaves behind a legacy of extraordinary accomplishment, and joy,” added his daughter Alannah Weston.

“The luxury retail industry has lost a great visionary. His energy electrified those of us who were lucky enough to work alongside him to reimagine what customer experience could be.”

He was born in Buckinghamshire, England, to a prominent family and helped his father Willard Garfield Weston transform the family’s bakery company into a global food empire. He is predeceased by his brother Garry H Weston, who died in 2002, as one of the richest people in the UK.

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