A former president and CEO of Sobeys Inc. is remembered for his role in transforming the Stellarton, N.S., grocery store from a regional company to a multimillion-dollar company.
David Sobey’s death was announced in a statement issued by Empire, the grocer’s parent company, on Tuesday. He was 92 years old.
The son of Frank and Irene Sobey, David joined the business at a young age and for many years ran the company alongside his brothers William and Donald.
“David was a great grocer, a great retailer and a great businessman who was instrumental in guiding the phenomenal growth of Sobeys from a regional supermarket chain, built by his father, to a national retail and distribution business. food that today serves millions of Canadians on a weekly basis,” Jim Dickson, president of Empire, said in the release.
When David was born in 1931, there were only a few Sobeys stores in the country, all located near the family’s hometown.
But at the time of his death, the grocer had grown to operate more than 1,500 stores across Canada, generating approximately $31.5 billion in annual sales and employing 131,000 people, Empire said.
Although the company has long had grocery stores across Canada, David and his family were adamant about keeping their corporate headquarters in Stellarton, where it all began.
David served as president and CEO of Sobeys Inc. from 1986 to 1995, and president from 1995 until his retirement in 2001. He remained on Empire’s board of directors until 2015.
He was also known for his philanthropy, particularly his long-standing association with St. Mary’s University in Halifax, home of the Sobey School of Business, and the David Sobey Center for Innovation in Retail and Services.
In 2019, he donated a personal gift of $9 million to the school, as part of a total gift of $18 million from the Sobey Foundation and Sobeys Inc., the largest gift to the university in its history.
“We are honored to have had their support and are committed to continuing to fuel their vision for a vibrant retail sector in Canada,” the university said in a statement posted on its website.
On Tuesday afternoon in Canning, N.S., Prime Minister Tim Houston expressed his condolences.
“It’s a sad day for the family, it’s a sad day for Nova Scotia and it was sad news for me personally,” Houston said. “David was a very insightful person and a very calming voice. I greatly appreciated my interactions with him and will miss him.”
I was saddened to learn of David Sobey’s passing today. He was a passionate advocate for the growth and prosperity of Pictou County, Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada. pic.twitter.com/QlKYRembio
David Sobey was predeceased by his parents and two brothers, and leaves behind his wife Faye, son Paul, daughter Janis, sister Dianne Sobey, and 10 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.
The family will announce funeral arrangements at a later date.
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