GALEN WESTON, the entrepreneur who built an Atlantic-spanning business network that made him one of the richest people living in Canada, has died at the age of 80.
Galen Weston had a long connection with Ireland.
Born in England, the ninth and youngest son of Garfield Weston, his mother Reta’s family came from Coleraine in Co. Derry.
The family’s retail operations began in the 1960s when Galen Weston opened six grocery stores in the Republic. He later began operations in Northern Ireland.
In 1966 he married one of Ireland’s top fashion models Hilary Frayne from Dun Laoghaire.
By the early 1970s the Westons had opened grocery stores across the island.
The family acquired Irish company Penneys, founded by Arthur Ryan in Dublin in 1962.
The company subsequently crossed the Irish Sea to become the highly successful Primark discount chain.
The Westons also bought the grocery chain Quinnsworth and acquired an interest in Brown Thomas, Dublin’s top department store — which they eventually owned outright by 1981.
The Weston stable of businesses also includes Selfridges, and currently Forbes estimates their total wealth at $8.7bn.
In 1983 the IRA tried unsuccessfully to kidnap Galen Weston.
The attempt failed when gardaí, belonging to the anti-terrorist unit, opened fire on the five-member gang when they arrived at the 200-acre estate of the Westons in Co. Wicklow.
Over a hundred shots were fired and Provisional IRA members arrested as gardaí foiled the plan.
The Weston family was not at home at the time of the incident.
Galen, then 42, was playing polo in Windsor with his friend Prince Charles.
Galen Weston died on April 12 after a long illness.