Sir Ken Morrison, who was instrumental in growing supermarket Morrisons into one of the UK’s largest retailers, has died aged 85 following a short illness.
Sir Ken was one of Yorkshire’s richest men, and his family fortune is estimated at around £1.6bn.
He was knighted in the New Year’s Honours List in 2001 and lived in a magnificent French-style chateau in Myton-on-Swale, near Boroughbridge.
He left school at 18 and built up his father’s egg and butter market stalls.
When his father became ill, he returned from National Service in Germany to run the business rather than see it sold.
He was married and divorced as a young man and later remarried, but his second wife died of cancer.
Sir Ken was said to have been devastated by her death. His third wife is Lynne, a former lawyer who worked for the company’s legal advisers and who was 30 years his junior.
He has five children, three of whom are grown-up, and two young children with Lynne, who became Lady Morrison.
A statement from his family read: “We are very sad to share the news that Sir Ken died today aged 85 following a short illness. He died peacefully at home in North Yorkshire with his family.
“Sir Ken was, of course, a unique figure in the history of grocery retailing in the UK, for more than half a century being the driving force at the heart of Morrisons as it grew from two market stalls to become one of the UK’s largest retailers.
“But to us he was a greatly committed and loving family man, as inspirational and central to us in our daily lives as he was in the business. His drive and ambition, quick intelligence and encyclopaedic knowledge were matched with a real curiosity in his fellow man.
“He had a gentle humour and kindness about him and he could, and would, talk with genuine interest to anyone.
“He showed us all the importance of aiming high but never forgetting the practicalities of life and the humanity of those we deal with.
“A proud Yorkshireman, he never forgot his roots and had a real love for, and commitment to, the people and city of Bradford.
“We will all miss him enormously.
“There will be a private funeral for close family only. At a later date there will also be a public occasion to celebrate Sir Ken’s life.
“In the meantime, we will make no further comment and ask that our privacy be respected at this very sad time.”
After stepping back from the world of retail, Sir Ken concentrated on farming. He had more than 1,100 acres at Myton-on-Swale and ran around 1,000 cattle and a flock of Texel cross ewes. He was a president of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society.