"Dublin-born Hilary Weston, a 1960s model-turned-retailer and philanthropist, is married to Galen Weston, Canada's second-richest man. The publicity-shy family owns a retail empire that includes Brown Thomas and Arnotts in Ireland, the Loblaw grocery chain in Canada, and Selfridges — the high-end British chain that was the basis of the ITV show Mr Selfridge.
The family's empire in Canada dates back to the late 19th century. It grew out of the bread factory established in Toronto by Galen's grandfather George Weston, That business prospered, becoming the country's largest bread factory and the foundation of the family's wealth. George Weston is now one of North America's largest food processing and distribution groups.
These days, Galen Weston is gradually handing over the reins of the business to the fourth generation to focus on the luxury end of the family portfolio, including Selfridges and Holt Renfrew, and to devote more time to charitable pursuits. At George Weston Ltd, Galen Sr has passed the torch to son Galen Jr (44), who is married to Alexandra Schmidt, heiress to the Bata shoe fortune. Nicknamed G2, Galen Jr ran Loblaws, Canada's biggest grocery chain, until he stepped down last year to become chairman of George Weston after his father left at age 75 as part of a staged succession plan and family tradition.
Daughter Alannah Weston was named deputy chairman in 2014 at Selfridges Group and became a director on the George Weston board in 2016. After the Weston family took control over Selfridges in 2003, Galen Weston appointed Alannah as the creative director. She is married to architect Alex Cochrane and they live in a 19th-century home in South Kensington in London with their two daughters.
The family's Wittington Investments, which controls department stores like Brown Thomas and De Bijenkorf in the Netherlands, made a profit of 1.3bn in the year to September 17, 2016, up from 860m a year earlier, but it also donated 129m to charity. In November 2015, Selfridges completed its acquisition of Arnotts in Dublin. The Westons also own a controlling stake in Loblaws, which saw its shares — currently valued at 26bn — almost unchanged in the past year.
The extended family also owns a stake in Associated British Foods (ABF), owner of Penneys, but shares have
been on the slide over the
Galen Weston first moved to Dublin in the early 1960s, where he met Hilary. Her love of fashion led to them setting up the first Penneys in Dublin. As well as their extensive retail interests, the family owns properties such as a 416-acre gated country club at Windsor in Vero Beach in Florida and their own private island in a national park in Canada.
When in Britain, they often stay near the royal family in England, at Fort Belvedere, formerly the country home of King Edward VIII.