Former Sobeys Chairman, CEO David Sobey dies

Grocery industry veteran led one of Canada’s “big three” supermarket retailers.
Sobeys store banner closeup
Empire/Sobeys grocery retail footprint spans over 1,900 food, drug and convenience stores in all 10 provinces. / Photo: Shutterstock

David F. Sobey, chairman emeritus of Canadian food and drug retailer Sobeys Inc., has died at age 92.

Parent company Empire Co. Ltd. announced passing of Sobey, a former chairman and CEO of the Stellarton, Nova Scotia-based supermarket retailer, on Tuesday.

One of Canada’s “big three” grocers, Empire operates its food retail business under its Sobeys Inc. subsidiary. The company’s grocery retail footprint encompasses over 1,900 food, drug and convenience stores in all 10 provinces under such banners as Sobeys, Safeway, IGA, Foodland, FreshCo, Thrifty Foods, Farm Boy, Longo’s and Lawtons Drugs.

“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,” Empire Chairman Jim Dickson said 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.”

David F Sobey-Empire Sobeys

David F. Sobey, a former chairman and CEO of Sobeys Inc. / Photo courtesy of Empire/Sobeys

David Sobey, as well as his brothers Bill and Donald, was introduced to the grocery business at an early age, building up his skills and knowledge working nearly every job in the family’s expanding business, according to Empire. His career took him into senior leadership roles with increasing responsibility, 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 Sobey retired as chairman in 2001, he was appointed chairman emeritus by the Sobeys board of directors. He retired from the Empire 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,” commented Michael Medline, president and CEO of Empire. “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.”



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