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Sobeys’ David Frank Sobey dies at 92 .png Sobeys / Empire

Sobeys’ David Frank Sobey dies at 92

David Sobey started his career and legacy with the family business in 1951

David Frank Sobey, a former president and CEO of Sobeys Inc., has passed away at the age of 92.

Sobey was C.M., chair emeritus of Sobeys Inc. at the time of his death. The announcement of his passing was made by the Sobeys board of directors. 

From humble family beginnings dating back to the 1800s, the Canadian company headquartered in Stellarton, Nova Scotia has approximately $31.5 billion in annual sales and $16.5 billion in assets today. Sobeys parent company, Empire Company Limited, employs approximately 131,000 people via its subsidiaries, franchisees, and affiliates.

“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 grocery chain, built by his father, into a national food retailing and distribution business that today serves millions of Canadians on a weekly basis,” said Jim Dickson, chair, Empire Company Limited. 

David Sobey was born in Stellarton, Nova Scotia on March 22, 1931, and was the middle son of Frank H. and Irene Sobey. 

David and his brothers Bill and Donald, were introduced to the grocery business at an early age in the 1950s, where he then married Faye Naugle in 1953. David honed his skills and knowledge by working virtually every job there was in the family's ever-expanding business. 

His career took him into increasingly senior leadership roles within Sobeys, including serving as vice chairman and CEO from 1982 to 1986; chairman and CEO from 1986 to 1995; and chairman from 1995 to 2001. When he retired in 2001, he was appointed chair emeritus by the Sobeys Inc. board of directors. He retired from the board in 2015.

“David was an incredible retailer, business leader and a mentor to so many of us at our company as well as in our industry,” said Michael Medline, president and CEO, Empire Company Limited. “His legacy is an unparalleled business culture that spans from coast to coast and is lived every day by our 131,000 teammates.” 

David was predeceased by his mother Irene MacDonald Sobey; father Frank Hoyse Sobey and brothers William M. Sobey and Donald C.R. Sobey. He is survived by Faye, his wife of 70 years; daughter, Janis (Christopher Hames) and son, Paul (Marsha Sobey); seven grandchildren; three step-grandchildren, and 18 great-grandchildren. He is also survived by his sister, Dianne Sobey.

David’s business and food industry honors included: 

  • Pictou County Chamber of Commerce Lifetime Achievement Award, 1996
  • Nova Scotia Business Hall of Fame, 2002
  • Atlantic Philanthropist of the Year, 2006
  • Canadian Business Hall of Fame, along with brothers Donald and Bill (posthumously), 2007
  • Knight of the Golden Pencil,1991
  • Retail Council of Canada’s Distinguished Canadian Retailer of the Year award, 1992
  • Retail Council of Canada’s Lifetime Achievement Award, 2019 (shared with brother Donald C.R. Sobey)
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