Empire Celebrates the Life and Legacy of David F. Sobey

Empire Celebrates the Life and Legacy of David F. Sobey

Canada NewsWire

STELLARTON, NS, Sept. 19, 2023 /CNW/ - The Board of Directors of Empire Company Limited (TSX: EMP.A) today announced the passing of David Frank Sobey, C.M., Chair Emeritus of Sobeys Inc. He was 92 years old.

"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, Empire Company Limited. "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, like his brothers Bill and Donald, was introduced to the grocery business at an early age, honing his skills and knowledge working virtually every job there was in the family's ever-expanding business. His career took him into increasingly senior leadership roles, including serving as Vice Chairman & CEO from 1982 to 1986; Chairman & CEO from 1986 to 1995; and Chairman from 1995 to 2001. When he retired in 2001, he was appointed Chair Emeritus by the Sobeys Inc. 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 & CEO, Empire Company Limited. "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."

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

Funeral arrangements will be announced by the family.


Empire Company Limited (TSX: EMP.A) is a Canadian company headquartered in Stellarton, Nova Scotia. Empire's key businesses are food retailing, through wholly owned subsidiary Sobeys Inc., and related real estate. With approximately $31.5 billion in annual sales and $16.5 billion in assets, Empire and its subsidiaries, franchisees and affiliates employ approximately 131,000 people.

David F. Sobey
  • Born in Stellarton, Nova Scotia on March 22,1931
  • Middle son of Frank H. and Irene Sobey
  • Brother to William M. (Bill) Sobey (d.1989), Donald C.R. Sobey (d. 2021), and Dianne Sobey
  • Married Faye Naugle in 1953
  • Began his career with Sobeys in 1951
  • Appointed Director of Merchandising and Advertising; Vice President in 1961; President, 1974; Chief Executive Officer, 1982; Chairman and CEO, 1986; Chairman, 1995; and Chair Emeritus, Sobeys Inc in 2001
  • Joined the Board of Directors of Sobeys Stores Limited in 1958 and Empire Company Limited in 1963
  • Appointed to the Order of Canada in 1995

Board Directorships

  • Empire Company Limited
  • Sobeys Inc.
  • Hannaford Bros. Co. (Maine USA)
  • Dominion Textile Inc.
  • Provigo Inc.,
  • Versa Services Ltd.
  • CHC Helicopter Corp.
  • Evangeline Financial Services Corp.

Industry and Community Service

  • Lions Club of New Glasgow
  • Junior Achievement of Canada
  • Retail Council of Canada
  • Food Marketing Institute (USA)
  • The Food Business Forum CIES (Paris, France)
  • Tim Horton Children's Foundation
  • Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo
  • National Advisory Council for Mount Allison University
  • Board of Governors of Saint Mary's University
  • Chancellor, Saint Mary's University, 2008 - 2010
  • Atlantic Salmon Federation

Business Honours

  • Pictou County Chamber of Commerce Lifetime Achievement Award, 1996
  • Nova Scotia Business Hall of Fame, 2002
  • Atlantic Philanthropist of the Year, 2006
  • Canadian Business Hall of Fame, along with brothers Donald and Bill (posthumously), 2007

Food Industry Honours

  • Knight of the Golden Pencil,1991
  • Retail Council of Canada's Distinguished Canadian Retailer of the Year award, 1992
  • Retail Council of Canada's Lifetime Achievement Award, 2019 (shared with brother Donald C.R. Sobey)

Academic Honours

  • Saint Mary's University, Doctor of Commerce (honoris causa), 1991
  • Canadian Council for the Advancement of Education, Friend of Education Award, 1999
  • Mount Allison University, Doctor of Laws (honoris causa), 2010
  • St. Francis Xavier University, Doctor of Laws (honoris causa), 2010
  • Cape Breton University, Doctor of Laws (honoris causa), 2015
  • Dalhousie University, Doctor of Laws (honoris causa), 2016

SOURCE Empire Company Limited

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