In a statement, his family said Weston died on Monday, “peacefully at home after a long illness faced with courage and dignity.”
Taking over from his father, W. Garfield Weston, in 1974, W. Galen Weston led the company through a series of expansions and acquisitions that made the Weston family worth more than $10 billion (according to Bloomberg) and $7 billion (according to Forbes).
Before retiring as chairman of George Weston Ltd. in 2016, Weston headed a company that owned retail, grocery and drug stores across Canada, including Loblaws, which he helped save from bankruptcy in the 1970s, as well as upscale retailers, Selfridges in the U.K., Holt Renfrew in Canada, Brown Thomas in Ireland and de Bijenkorf in the Netherlands.
“His energy electrified those of us who were lucky enough to work alongside him to reimagine what customer experience could be.”
George Weston Ltd. also served as a holding company for various food and bakery brands and owned the food conglomerate Weston and the fashion chain Primark.
Weston, who used to visit his stores on Saturdays to talk with workers and customers, was well-known for his philanthropy.
In 2014, the Weston family donated $50 million to start the Weston Brain Institute, a research facility aimed at finding treatments for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and ALS.
In July 2016, the family donated another $50 million to the institute.
As well, the family contributed to the Royal Ontario Museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Ontario Science Centre, the Canadian Canoe Museum, the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum, the Banff Centre and the Mendel Art Gallery.
Weston also donated $1 million annually to the Fraser Institute, a conservative think-tank headquartered in Vancouver.
The Garfield Weston Foundation created a $43-million initiative last year to support mid to large-scale organizations impacted by the COVID-19 virus.
“My father’s greatest gift was inspiring those around him to achieve more than they thought possible,” said his son, Galen G. Weston, known as Galen Weston Jr., who is CEO of both Loblaws and the George Weston Company Ltd.
“In our business and in his life he built a legacy of extraordinary accomplishment and joy.”
In addition to his son and his daughter, Weston is survived by his wife of 55 years, Hilary Weston, who served as Ontario’s lieutenant-governor from 1997 to 2002.
With files from CBC News, The Canadian Press (Tara Deschamps, Linda Nguyen)