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Dublin: 5 °C Thursday 12 December, 2019
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Penneys founder Arthur Ryan has died aged 83

Mr Ryan founded the clothing retailer in 1969.

Arthur Ryan pictured in 2012
Arthur Ryan pictured in 2012
Image: Shutterstock.com

ARTHUR RYAN, WHO founded clothing chain Penneys, has died aged 83. 

Mr Ryan, who had served as CEO of the discount fashion brand between 1969 and 2009, passed away after a short illness. 

The current CEO, Paul Marchant, said the company is “greatly saddened” by Mr Ryan’s death. 

The first Penneys opened on Dublin’s Mary Street in 1969.

The brand, which expanded internationally under the Primark label, now has 370 stores across Europe and the United States. 

Mr Marchant paid tribute to the businessman, saying he was a “gifted retailer and 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, who is survived by his wife Alma, lost his son and grandson in a triple drowning tragedy off the west coast of Cork in 2015. 

Speaking today, Mr Marchant described Arthur Ryan as “a retail pioneer and a man of remarkable business acumen”. 

“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.”

“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,” he said.

Capture Penneys on Dublin's Mary Street Source: GoogleMaps

George Weston, CEO of Associated British Foods, also paid tribute to Mr Ryan.

“From the Board of ABF and on behalf of the Weston family, our deepest sympathies go out to Arthur’s wife, Alma, and all his family and friends at this very sad time. We will all greatly miss his larger than life presence, his sharp wit and his friendship.

Mr Weston went on to say that Mr Ryan “will be remembered as one of the great giants of retailing.”

“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.”

“Arthur Ryan made fashion accessible to all and his legacy looms large. He built a phenomenal world-class retailer, the foundations of which will always belong to Ireland.”

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