Brothers David and Donald Sobey will retire from their respective roles as chairman emeritus of Sobeys and its parent company, Empire Cos. Ltd., Empire said Wednesday.
David, 84, and Donald, 80, are sons of Frank Sobey, who grew his father’s Nova Scotia butcher business into one of Canada’s largest supermarket chains. Both brothers have been members of the Empire board since 1963.
“No two individuals have played more significant roles in the growth and development of Empire and Sobeys than David and Donald Sobey,” Rob Dexter, chairman of Empire, said in a statement. “For more than half a century, their contributions — both within the leadership of Empire and Sobeys as well as at the board level — have transformed these companies, facilitating their emergence and subsequent growth on the national stage.
“The Sobey family continues to be well represented by other generations on the board of directors, including some of David and Donald’s children,” Dexter continued. “As major shareholders, I know that both David and Donald will continue to remain engaged and very well informed on the strategic direction and decisions of the company.”
Empire said the brothers decided not to stand for re-election at Empire’s annual meeting in September.
David Sobey was introduced to the grocery business at an early age, honing his skills and knowledge working virtually every job there was in the family’s ever-expanding business, including store manager. His career took him into increasingly senior leadership roles, including serving as chairman and CEO of Sobeys from 1986 to 1995 and chairman from 1995-2001.
Donald Sobey joined his father and brothers in the family business after graduating college in 1957; first in real estate financing for the rapidly expanding Sobeys grocery business and then with the fledgling Empire Co., which had been set up to diversify the family’s business interests. He was appointed president of Empire in 1969 and chairman in 1985. When he retired in 2004, he was appointed Chair Emeritus by Empire’s board of directors.
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