'A truly gifted retailer' - Penneys founder Arthur Ryan passes away aged 83
Arthur Ryan, the legendary founder of fashion chain Primark, has died after a short illness.
He was 83 years old.
The Dubliner was synonymous with the cut-price chain, having spearheaded the launch of the business, which trades as Penneys in Ireland, in 1969. Its first store was on Dublin’s Mary Street.
“We are greatly saddened by the passing of our founder and chairman Arthur Ryan,” said Primark chief executive Paul Marchant in a statement this afternoon.
“On behalf of everyone at Primark, we want to extend our deepest sympathies to his wife Alma and his family at this difficult time.”
Mr Marchant added: “Arthur was a truly gifted retailer and a visionary leader. I was fortunate to work closely with him and experience first-hand his sharp mind and innovative thinking. Over the years we developed a very strong friendship, which I will always value and cherish. The company’s directors and employees, as well as those that worked with him over the years are deeply saddened by his loss.”
Mr Ryan had been working for Dunnes Stores before he made the move to set up Primark. The business was bankrolled by Garfield and Galen Weston, and it would eventually become a chain with stores across Europe and the United States.
Despite having stepped down as chief executive of Primark in 2009, Mr Ryan remained closely linked with the business, having been appointed chairman of the chain when he retired as CEO.
He oversaw Primark's first foray into mainland Europe in 2006. The business is part of Associated British Foods (ABF).
“Arthur Ryan was a retail pioneer and a man of remarkable business acumen,” said Mr Marchant.
“At Primark, we feel very fortunate to have experienced up close his drive and passion for the business as well as his integrity, warmth and wonderful sense of humour. He was very generous in so many ways. He devoted a lot of his time to advise and connect people and he quietly supported people in the background in times of need," he said.
He added: “Despite his many talents and successes in life, Arthur always modelled great humility. He said that we should “remember who we are, challenge ourselves to be the best we can be, push the boundaries all the time and never be complacent or satisfied.”
George Weston, the chief executive of ABF, said the “deepest sympathies” go out to Mr Ryan, his wife, family and friends.
“We will all greatly miss his larger than life presence, his sharp wit and his friendship,” he said.
“Arthur Ryan will be remembered as one of the great giants of retailing,” added Mr Weston. “When my Grandfather, Garfield Weston and Uncle, Galen Weston recruited Arthur to run Penneys in 1969 with only one store in Dublin, they knew they were hiring an exceptional trader. But what three generations of Westons learnt over the following decades was that Arthur was also a great leader and business builder, driven every day by a relentless desire to delight his customers.”
Mr Ryan was struck by tragedy in 2015 when his son Barry drowned off Baltimore, Co Cork. Barry Ryan’s son, and his son’s girlfriend, also died in the drowning.