Empire celebrates and recognizes the tremendous legacy of Donald C. R. Sobey

STELLARTON, NS, March 24, 2021 /CNW/ – The Board of Directors of Empire Company Limited (“Empire” or the “Company”) (TSX: EMP.A) today announced the passing of Donald Creighton Rae Sobey, C.M., Chair Emeritus of the Company. He was 86 years old.

“Donald’s impact on the Empire group of companies was profound. He was a brilliant businessperson, and his legacy of value creation speaks for itself,” said Jim Dickson, Chair, Empire Company Limited. “But beyond his success in business, Donald was someone who cared deeply for his community, giving his time, energy, and resources to support so many important causes across the country. The impact of his generosity will certainly be felt for generations to come. He will be deeply missed by all who knew him.”

Like his brothers Bill and David before him, Donald Sobey was introduced to the family business at an early age. After graduating from Queen’s University in 1957, Donald joined his father and brothers in the business, first in real estate financing for the rapidly expanding Sobeys grocery business and then with the Empire Company Limited which had been set up to diversify the family’s business interests. He joined Empire’s Board of Directors in 1963, before being appointed President in 1969 and Chair in 1985. In September 2004, he retired as Chair and was named Chair Emeritus, continuing to be actively engaged in the business as a member of the Board of Directors until 2015. Donald’s legacy includes a student scholarship he created for educational opportunities, artists who he supported throughout their careers, and countless other individuals and organizations he felt privileged to work alongside throughout his philanthropic endeavours.

Donald is survived by his wife, Beth, his three children, and five grandchildren.

“Empire and Sobeys owe so much to the leadership, business acumen, and passion of Donald,” said Michael Medline, President and CEO, Empire. “On behalf of all of our teammates across Canada, I want to extend our collective heartfelt condolences to his wife Beth and their children and grandchildren. Donald was a great businessperson as well as a visionary philanthropist who believed in nurturing Canadian artists and supporting the next generation of leaders. We will all miss him.”


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 $28.4 billion in annualized sales and $15.0 billion in assets, Empire and its subsidiaries, franchisees, and affiliates employ approximately 127,000 people.

Donald C. R. Sobey


  • Born in Stellarton, Nova Scotia on October 23, 1934
  • Youngest son of Frank H. and Irene Sobey
  • Brother to William (Bill) Sobey (d.1989), David F. Sobey, and Dianne Sobey
  • Received his Bachelor of Commerce degree from Queen’s University in 1957
  • Began his career with Sobeys Leased Properties in 1958
  • Married Elizabeth (Beth) Purvis in 1963
  • Joined the Board of Directors, Empire Company Limited in 1963
  • Appointed President of Empire in 1969 and Chair in 1985
  • Retired as Chair in 2004 and was appointed Chair Emeritus
  • Appointed to the Order of Canada in 2014

Board Directorships

  • Empire Company Limited
  • Crombie Properties Limited
  • Sobeys Inc.
  • Alliance Atlantis Communications Inc.
  • Toronto Dominion Bank
  • Halifax Developments Limited
  • High Liner Foods Inc.
  • Jannock Limited
  • Maritime Tel & Tel
  • Paribas Participations Limitee PPL
  • Provigo Corp.
  • Seafort Capital
  • Stora Enso Port Hawkesbury Limited
  • Traders Classified Media NV
  • Wajax Limited

Philanthropic Affiliations

  • National Gallery of Canada
  • Sobey Art Award (Chair, Sobey Art Foundation)
  • World Wildlife Fund
  • QEII Hospital Foundation (Halifax)
  • Dalhousie University Capital Campaign
  • Dalhousie University – Sobey Fund for Oceans
  • Queen’s University Advisory Council
  • Queen’s University – D&R Sobey Atlantic Scholarship
  • Camp Hill Medical Foundation

Honourary Degrees/Diplomas and Awards

  • Dalhousie University, Doctor of Laws (honoris causa), 1989
  • Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (DFA, 2001)
  • Nova Scotia Community College (2001)
  • Nova Scotia Business Hall of Fame (2002)
  • Canadian Conference for the Arts, Keith Kelly Award for Cultural Leadership (2003)
  • Canadian Business Hall of Fame (2007)
  • Mount Allison University, Doctor of Laws (honoris causa), 2008
  • St. Francis Xavier, Doctor of Laws, (honoris causa), 2010
  • University of King’s College, Doctor of Civil Law (honoris causa), 2013
  • Cape Breton University, Doctor of Laws (honoris causa), 2015
  • Queen’s University, Doctor of Laws (honoris causa), 2016


SOURCE Empire Company Limited

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