W. Galen Weston has passed away. He was 80 years old. Weston, described as a retail visionary and a giant of Canadian business, spent more than four decades building a food retail empire.
His leadership and entrepreneurial spirit built international food, retail, and real estate companies which include Loblaw, Choice Properties, Selfridges Group, and Weston Foods. He retired as Chairman, George Weston Limited in 2016, but continued his lifelong commitment to philanthropy through the Weston Family Foundation, the Weston Brain Institute, and many other organizations.
"My father's greatest gift was inspiring those around him to achieve more than they thought possible. In our business and in his life, he built a legacy of extraordinary accomplishment and joy," said Galen G. Weston, chairman and CEO, George Weston Limited. Alannah Weston, chairman, Selfridges Group, added, "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."
Willard Gordon Galen Weston was born in Buckinghamshire England on October 29, 1940 into a family that had already begun to build a food empire in the country. His father Willard Garfield Weston helped expand the family's bakery business into a multinational food empire. The George Weston Ltd. company is named for his grandfather.
He took over the helm of Loblaw Companies Limited in the 1970s and steered the growth of Canada's largest food retailer.
Grocery Business reached out to industry members who knew Weston.
Dave Williams, who held executive management roles at Loblaw Companies Limited and Shoppers Drug Mart, remembers Weston as an inquisitive and compassionate leader.
"His inquisitive nature was never more evident than when he visited stores. Rather than go straight to the store management team, he would go off down the aisles seeking store employees to ask them what was good or bad about their jobs and consumers to them about their store shopping experience. He had such a genuine desire to hear the other person. He understood better than anyone else I met in my career that everybody says they listen, but the true test is 'did you hear what they had to say.'"
Vince Scorniaenchi, executive vice president of Fortinos describes Weston as "one of the most successful businesspeople in Canadian history," that he had the honour to work with.
He recalls store tours Weston took "where he might approach a produce manager to ask if they were being supported for success, or, ask a bakery clerk why customers liked a particular Dempster bread; without fail, he regularly took the time to ask how my business was performing. He knew the numbers but was more interested in what was working and what wasn't, and what the company could do better to support our efforts."