Sir Ken Morrison, who was instrumental in growing the Bradford-based supermarket company of the same name into one of the UK's largest retailers, has died aged 85.

A statement from Sir Ken's family said he died peacefully at home in North Yorkshire.

It read: "We are very sad to share the news that Sir Ken died today aged 85 following a short illness. He died peacefully at home in North Yorkshire with his family.

"Sir Ken was, of course, a unique figure in the history of grocery retailing in the UK, for more than half a century being the driving force at the heart of Morrisons as it grew from two market stalls to become one of the UK's largest retailers.

"But to us he was a greatly committed and loving family man, as inspirational and central to us in our daily lives as he was in the business. His drive and ambition, quick intelligence and encyclopaedic knowledge were matched with a real curiosity in his fellow man.

"He had a gentle humour and kindness about him and he could, and would, talk with genuine interest to anyone.

"He showed us all the importance of aiming high but never forgetting the practicalities of life and the humanity of those we deal with.

"A proud Yorkshireman, he never forgot his roots and had a real love for, and commitment to, the people and city of Bradford.

"We will all miss him enormously.

"There will be a private funeral for close family only. At a later date there will also be a public occasion to celebrate Sir Ken's life.

"In the meantime, we will make no further comment and ask that our privacy be respected at this very sad time."

Fellow Bradford entrepreneur Jack Tordoff, of the JCT600 motors empire, said of Sir Ken: "He was my hero. He was a super guy.

"All the way round he was a fantastic person."

He added: "It is a very sad day. He was a tremendous fellow. Apart from being a brilliant businessman, he was a lovely man.

"Bradford has to be proud of him."

Mr Tordoff said he knew Sir Ken through their time together at Bradford City, where Sir Ken was a director and Mr Tordoff was chairman.

"He helped to get the club on its feet when they were in a crisis," said Mr Tordoff.

Former Minister for sport and tourism and ex-Bradford South MP Gerry Sutcliffe said: "He was a nice man, friendly and supportive. He sent me a nice letter when I became an MP.

"He put Bradford on the map. He was somebody who created a massive business empire in supermarkets, that was from Bradford and lived in Bradford.

"I am sad to see him go."

Roger Marsh OBE, chairman of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP), said: "I am saddened by the passing of Sir Ken Morrison, a man who embodied everything that is great about Yorkshire.

"His commitment to, and passion for, Bradford over the decades leaves behind a strong legacy for the thousands of people employed by the supermarket chain and the wider City Region whose thriving food and drink sector owes much to his enterprising spirit.

"Sir Ken was a business man I have long admired and his passing is a great loss to our community. My thoughts are with his family and all those who have had the pleasure of working with him over the years."

Naz Shah, MP for Bradford West, said: "I am shocked. He leaves a legacy, a huge legacy for Bradford.

"It is a real legacy of rags to riches. He epitomises the culture of entrepreneurship which is in Bradford.

"He epitomises the culture of what can be achieved in Bradford. From a market stall, his name now adorns a business across the country which employs so many people across the UK.

"My deepest condolences to his family and friends."

Bradford East MP Imran Hussain said: "There is no doubt that Ken was first and foremost a Bradfordian and a Yorkshireman, and when I was present at the ceremony where he was made a freeman of the city, it was clear that he was deeply moved by the gesture of his home city.

"Ken ultimately never forgot where he came from, and under his management, Morrisons spent millions in Bradford, ensuring that as many services for its headquarters were sourced from the city, and he never forgot that Morrisons was a grocers at heart.

“Bradford has got a lot to thank Ken for, as do I, as my first job was stacking shelves and sweeping floors in Morrisons. He is a man who will be greatly missed, and I know that the thoughts and prayers of all of Bradford will be with his family.”

Bradford South MP Judith Cummins said: "Sir Ken was a proud Bradfordian who had a profound influence not only on his home city and Yorkshire but on the entire retail sector in the UK. He led Morrisons from humble beginnings to become one of the biggest forces in retail in this country.

"The significance of his achievements and the impact he had cannot be understated, not least for the people and city of Bradford – who I am sure will share my sadness at the news of his death."

Shipley MP Philip Davies said: "It’s incredibly sad news.

"Before I became an MP, I worked at Asda for 12 years. We recognised him as the best retailer in the country. 

"He was a genius. The good thing about him was that he never lost touch with the shop floor.

"I’m sure people will remember going into their local Morrisons store and seeing him on the shop floor filling the shelves. 

"He was a brilliant retailer and was fantastic for the Bradford economy."

Kris Hopkins, MP for Keighley and Ilkley, said: "Sir Ken Morrison was a giant of retailing and one of Bradford’s most famous sons.

"His career achievements brought many jobs and significant economic investment to my constituency.  I extend my sympathies to his family and friends."

Linda Howard, CEO of Cancer Support Yorkshire, said: "We will always be grateful to Ken for the support he gave Cancer Support Yorkshire.

"He recognised the work we do with people affected by cancer and the difference we make to local people. His support enabled us to grow into the organisation we are today."

Bradford Council leader Susan Hinchcliffe said: “I’m very sorry to hear about the loss of one of Bradford’s most famous sons.

“Ken Morrison helped his father on his stall in Rawson Market and then built up his family’s business of a chain of grocery stores to being the fourth largest supermarket in the country.

“He was awarded the Freedom of the City in 2010 for his tremendous contribution, keeping Morrisons’ headquarters here employing hundreds of Bradfordians and boosting the local economy.

“He was very committed to Bradford and praised local people as being 'fair-minded, tolerant and industrious'. 

"We salute his business acumen and hard work. He certainly put Bradford on the map.

“Our thoughts are with his family at this very sad time.”

Cllr Simon Cooke, leader of the Conservative Party on Bradford Council, said: "It is a sad day. It is not just the success he had, but he was one of those people who has helped keep Bradford on the map.

"He never lost the connection with the city.

"I think we will remember the huge contribution he has made to Bradford and the country as a whole, in terms of creating a fantastic business." 

Mike Cartwright, of Bradford Chamber of Commerce, said: "The business community will receive this news with sadness and we offer our condolences to the family.

"Ken was a titan of the Bradford business and retailing community for such a long time.  His success with the changes he made to the business is without compare.  He certainly left his mark."

James Mason, Bradford City chief executive, said: “Sir Ken Morrison did so much for the city as an employer, locally and nationally, and was also a shrewd businessman that we can all probably learn something from. 

“Morrisons are a Bradford institution and something that we can look to as Bradfordians and say that was a company started and built in Bradford and is now known as a super brand. 

“Morrisons has been a supporter of Bradford City and done lots of good work in the community and indeed Roger Owen, a club ambassador and former director, brought a lot of experience to us that I am sure he gained working under Sir Ken.”

Bradford Grammar School headmaster Simon Hinchliffe said: “It is with great sadness that we learnt today about the death of Sir Ken Morrison, former pupil and lifelong supporter of Bradford Grammar School.

"Sir Ken was an inspirational figure, a Yorkshireman of great integrity, humanity and a model of honest good sense. More than anyone Sir Ken embodied our motto, Hoc Age, to get on and do it.

"He will be sorely missed and our thoughts are with his wife Lady Morrison, who is the chairman of Governors at Bradford Grammar School, his children and family.”

Sir Ken, who was one of Yorkshire's richest men, stood down as chairman and chief executive of Morrisons in 2008.

The Yorkshireman joined Morrisons when he finished National Service in

1952 and just four years later became chairman and managing director, although he relinquished the latter role in 1997.

His association with the company started before the Second World War, however, when, aged nine, he helped his father on his Bradford market stall.

It was under Sir Ken's leadership that Morrisons opened its first town-centre shop in 1958 and first supermarket in 1961, both in Bradford.

In 1967 he led the company on to the stock market in London in a share offer which was 174 times oversubscribed as more than 80,000 investors tried to buy a stake.

Expansion across the North of England continued and in 1998 Morrisons opened its first store in the South - in Erith, Kent - before opening its 100th store in its centenary year in 1999.

In 2010, he was awarded Freedom of the City by the Lord Mayor of Bradford.

Infamously, he described former Morrisons boss Dalton Philips's strategy as "bullsh*t" in 2014, as the then-chief executive faced intense pressure amid sliding sales and a fierce supermarket price war.

A statement from the supermarket, headed by chief executive David Potts, said: "Sir Ken was an inspirational retailer who led Morrisons for more than half a century, transforming the company from a small family business into the UK's fourth largest food retailer.

"Sir Ken will be greatly missed by many thousands of his current and former colleagues, a large number of whom became close personal friends over the years."

Sir Ken was awarded a CBE in 1990 and knighted in the millennium New Year Honours list for his services to the food retailing industry.

Andrew Higginson, chairman of Morrisons, said: "I know that I speak for the whole company when I say how profoundly sad we were to hear of Sir Ken's death.

"He was an inspirational leader and the driving force behind Morrisons for over half a century. Although he retired several years ago, his legacy is evident every day and in every aspect of our business.

"Taking Morrisons from a small Bradford-based family business to a major UK grocery retailing chain is an outstanding achievement in the history of UK business.

"On a personal level, Ken was an enormous help to me as we made some significant changes to set the business on a new course. His knowledge of retail and his strategic insights have remained as relevant and intuitive as they were when he first built the business.

"Ken will be remembered by us all for his leadership, his passion for retailing and for his great love of Morrisons. To honour his memory in the most appropriate way we can, we will continue to develop the company that he built and loved.

"We will miss his friendship and his wise counsel very deeply, and our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time."

Mike Coupe, chief executive of Sainsbury's, said: "This is very sad news. Ken was one of the true greats of the retail industry - he built Morrisons from a couple of market stalls in West Yorkshire to one of the biggest supermarkets in the UK. And he always called a spade a spade. He will be very much missed."


Veteran retail analyst Clive Black, of Shore Capital, also paid glowing tribute to Sir Ken.

He said: "His story is one of remarkable achievement, taking a small family business in West Yorkshire to become a national grocery institution.

"Without Sir Ken many hundreds of thousands of British families and businesses would not have had their working and commercial livelihoods; many folks will be thankful to him this day.

"His character, with its lovely quirkiness and idiosyncrasy, is written large in the Morrison business today; traits that we are pleased to see the current CEO, David Potts CBE, keep alive and kicking.

"Sir Ken had a great empathy with shoppers, unwavering high standards, a huge retailing imagination, a naughty sense of humour and just a proper way of doing things that many will say is sadly too lacking these days.

"His passing is an immense loss to an industry and a country, in fact, for which few are held in higher regard."

The British Retail Consortium hailed his legacy, saying: "The passing of one of retail's greats is sad news.

"Undoubtedly, Sir Ken was, and will continue to be an inspiration to industry colleagues and will be remembered for his drive and ambition, alongside a legacy of transforming a small family-run firm into today's modern business."

Asda chief executive Sean Clarke said: "Sir Ken was a giant of our industry, a fellow Yorkshireman and a retail leader who everyone at Asda has huge respect for. Today, we send our condolences to his friends, family and colleagues."