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Sir Ken Morrison, who built one of Britain’s biggest retail chains out of a small business he took over from his father, has died aged 85 following a short illness.

A Yorkshireman who took over the retailer in 1957 shortly after completing his national service, he transformed the family business into the national chain that is now Britain’s fourth-biggest grocer.

He stepped down in 2008 after presiding over the disastrous acquisition of Safeway in 2004, a transaction that triggered five profit warnings. It took half a decade to weld the value-oriented business to a predominantly southern chain whose customers initially sneered at the northern brand.

However, Morrison retained a small stake and occasionally blasted his successors from his emeritus position as the company’s “life president”.

“When I left work and started working as a hobby, I chose to raise cattle,” he told the supermarket’s then-boss Dalton Philips in 2014, less than a year before he was fired.

“I have something like 1,000 bullocks and, having listened to your presentation, Dalton, you’ve got a lot more bullshit than me.”

Andrew Higginson, the current chairman of Morrisons, said:

I know that I speak for the whole company when I say how profoundly sad we were to hear of Sir Ken’s death. He was an inspirational leader and the driving force behind Morrisons for over half a century. Although he retired several years ago, his legacy is evident every day and in every aspect of our business.

Image via PA

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