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David Sobey, Sobeys Inc. chair emeritus, passes away

Empire president and CEO Michael Medline remembers Sobey as an "incredible retailer, business leader and a mentor"
david sobey
David Sobey

Sobeys Inc. Chair Emeritus and former CEO David Sobey has died at 92 years old.

Parent company Empire Company Ltd. announced the news of Sobey’s passing Tuesday (Sept. 19). 

"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 of Empire, in a statement. "David was unfailingly generous with his time, energy and personal resources and never stopped advocating for the growth and development of Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia and Pictou County."

Born in Stellarton, N.S. on March 22, 1931, Sobey, like his brothers Bill and Donald, was introduced to the grocery business at an early age.

He began his career with Sobeys in 1951, moving through the ranks to senior leadership roles including 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 board of directors. He retired from the Empire board of directors 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 of Empire, in a statement. "His legacy is an unparalleled business culture that spans from coast to coast and is lived every day by our 131,000 teammates. Throughout his life, he exemplified the kind of leadership in business and the community to which we must all aspire."

Sobey was predeceased by his mother Irene MacDonald Sobey; father Frank Hoyse Sobey and brothers William Sobey and Donald 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.

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