TORONTO — W. Galen Weston, longtime executive of George Weston Ltd., died April 12 after a long illness. He was 80 years old.

Born in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, UK, on Oct. 29, 1940, the youngest of nine children, W. Galen Weston studied business administration at Huron University College at the University of Western Ontario. In 1961 he began his career by acquiring and expanding supermarkets and department stores in Ireland. In 1972 he returned to Canada to take charge of Loblaw, a struggling chain of grocery stores that George Weston Ltd. had controlled since 1947.

Mr. Weston maintained executive control of George Weston Ltd. from 1974 (when he succeeded his father, W. Garfield Weston), until 2016 (when he stepped down as executive chairman and handed the reins to his son, Galen G. Weston). During his four decades of leadership, Weston grew into one of North America’s largest food processing companies.

During his tenure, W. Galen Weston oversaw the introduction of many brands and retail concepts, including President’s Choice, Joe Fresh, No Frills and Real Canadian Superstore. His leadership and entrepreneurial spirit built international food, retail, and real estate companies which include Loblaw, Choice Properties, Selfridges Group, and Weston Foods.

“Following my own father’s tradition of stepping down at the age of 75, I see this as a good time to create space for the next generation,” W. Galen Weston said at the time of the leadership transition in 2016. “I have absolute confidence in my son and the George Weston Ltd. board and leadership. I look forward to using my time to focus on the exciting opportunities ahead in our luxury business and some truly ground-breaking potential with our charitable foundation.”

Galen G. Weston said his father’s greatest gift was inspiring those around him to achieve more than they thought possible.

“In our business and in his life he built a legacy of extraordinary accomplishment and joy,” Galen G. Weston said. “The luxury retail industry has lost a great visionary. His energy electrified those of us who were lucky enough to work alongside him to reimagine what customer experience could be.”

Survivors include his wife, Hilary; a son, Galen (Alexandra) Weston; a daughter, Alannah (Alexander) Cochrane; four grandchildren; one brother and four sisters.

Founded in 1882, George Weston Ltd. is one of North America’s largest food processing and distribution groups. The company has two reportable operating segments: Weston Foods and Loblaw, which is operated by Loblaw Companies Ltd. The Weston Foods operating segment is primarily engaged in the baking industry within North America. Loblaw is Canada’s largest food distributor and a provider of general merchandise, drugstore and financial products and services. George Weston recently announced it is seeking to sell the Weston Foods business to focus on retail and real estate.