It was announced by George Weston Ltd. on Tuesday that after battling a hard fought illness, 80-year old British-Canadian billionaire businessman, W. Galen Weston, died peacefully in his home. After stepping down as chairman of his family founded company in 2016, which includes Loblaw Companies Ltd. (which owns Shoppers Drug Mart), Weston Foods, Selfridges Group (which includes Holt Renfrew) and Choice Properties; Weston’s work continued to make an impact.
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Not only did Weston contribute to building one of Canada’s largest publicly traded companies, he was also an active environmentalist, philanthropist and innovator in the retail and food industry.
W. Galen Weston’s Impact:
As the chairman of one of Canada’s largest retail chains, Weston understood the environmental responsibility in his hands. With this in mind, the Weston Foundation has donated over $100-million since the 1980s to conservation initiatives across Canada. This contribution has resulted in the protection of over 100,000 acres of natural habitat.
At the 2019 Consumer Goods Forum’s Global Summit in Vancouver, Weston’s son Galen Jr. spoke and suggested the industry supporting harmonizing of recycling programs across governmental bodies in order to improve recycling rates. He also suggested embracing package standardization with regard to plastic containers. Weston directly impacted his son’s environmental passion.
“Growth and prosperity do not need to come at the expense of sustainability.”Galen G. Weston Jr., Chairman and CEO, George Weston Ltd.
Known across the industry as a serial philanthropist, Weston has contributed to multiple efforts throughout his career. In 2005, he joined the campaign for the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 in Halifax which led him to becoming one of seven Nation Builders. The family also established the very first Canadian Chair of Nutrition at McGill University. Weston was also passionate about fighting child illiteracy. In the early 2000’s he aided in an effort that resulted in more than 2-million children taking home a literacy guide to their family.
According to Anthony S. Fell, who has been on the Loblaw board for over 20 years, Loblaw grocery chain was on the verge of bankruptcy after carrying too much debt in 1972. W. Galen Weston came to the rescue by selling off assets, assembling a new management team, and focusing on marketing and product development.
“The luxury retail industry has lost a great visionary”DAUGHTER ALANNAH WESTON, THE COMPANY’S CHAIRWOMAN, IN A STATEMENT
Weston hired William Shatner to star in Loblaw ads while launching the No Name and President’s Choice brands in the late 70s and early 80s. In efforts to further grow the brand, in 2003 Weston bought the Selfridges Group, which owns upscale retailers, Selfridges in the U.K., Holt Renfrew in Canada, Ireland’s Brown Thomas and de Bijenkorf in the Netherlands.
After Weston’s retirement in 2016, Loblaw has since committed $150 million over ten years to fight child hunger and poor nutrition in Canada through local school programs and social service agencies. The grocery chain has also committed to transitioning to phenol-free receipt paper across all its divisions by the end of 2021.
Although the tragic news of Weston’s death has pulled upon the heartstrings of those he inspired, his legacy will live on. But will his brands ever be the same? Time will tell.