Stellarton, NS – Donald Sobey, the former president of Empire Company and son of the founder of the food giant Sobeys, has passed away.
He was 86 years old.
Michael Medline, president and CEO of Empire and its wholly-owned subsidiary Sobeys, says the companies owe him a debt of leadership, business acumen and passion.
Mr. Medline noted that Mr. Soby was an outstanding entrepreneur, philanthropist and visionary who believed in the growth of Canadian artists and in the support of the next generation of leaders.
Sasha Soda, Executive Director of the Canadian National Gallery, said Soby strongly believes in the artists and stands up for their work.
After graduating from Queen’s University in 1957, Donald Soby joined his father and brothers in the family business.
He began real estate financing for the growing Sobeys grocery chain, then worked with parent company Empire, which was formed to diversify the family’s business interests.
Mr. Soby joined the Empire Board of Directors in 1963, before being appointed President in 1969 and Chairman of the Board of Directors in 1985.
In 2004, he retired as chairman and was appointed honorary chairman, and he continued to actively participate in the company as a member of the board of directors until 2015.
He was named a member of the Order of Canada in 2014 for his contributions to the country’s business and art communities.
Ian Rankin, Prime Minister of Nova Scotia said, “Donald Sooby was a strong global supporter of Nova Scotia, and of course he loved to ride a Picto.”
Mr. Rankin added that, through the Sobey Art Prize, he has promoted the careers of more than 300 emerging Canadian artists.
The Canadian Contemporary Art Prize, awarded annually since 2002, is the brainchild of Mr. Soby, an avid visual art lover.
“His local approach and vision to create the Sobey Art Prize has affected the lives of thousands of budding artists across the country.” “We will miss it greatly,” Ms. Soda said.
In recognition of Mr. Sobey’s leadership, the National Museum of Canada unveiled the Donald R. Sobi in 2015 – the first exhibition space named in honor of a benefactor in the foundation’s history.
The museum has described Mr. Soby as one of Canada’s greatest cultural benefactors.
“His steadfast, generous, and sincere support not only affected the lives of many artists, but also the lives of many Canadians who were able to discover the best plastic artists through his philanthropic work. It’s a huge loss,” said Deputy Director and Chief Curator of the National Museum of Canada, Kitty Scott. “.
Mr. Soby served as Chair of the Museum’s Board of Trustees from 2002 to 2008 and a founding member of the Board of Trustees for the National Museum of Canada Foundation from 2007 to 2020.