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Business Retailer, Philanthropist Isaac Wolfson Is Dead

June 22, 1991

LONDON (AP) _ Sir Isaac Wolfson, the son of a Russian-Jewish immigrant who left school with little formal education and became one of Britain’s leading business retailers and philanthropists, has died. He was 93.

A death notice placed by the family in The Times of London on Friday said he died Thursday at Rehovot in Israel, his main residence in recent years. No formal cause of death was given.

Wolfson was president of Great Universal Stores, Europe’s biggest mail- order company and Britain’s fifth-largest retailer.

He also created the Wolfson Foundation, whose main aim was the advancement of health, education and youth activities, has made philanthropic donations totaling more than $68 million.

Wolfson’s first job on leaving school at 15 was in his father’s small furniture workshop in the Glasgow, Scotland. The pay was a dollar a week.

In 1926, his commercial talent caught the eye of the owner of a company called Universal Stores, who hired him as a buyer.

In 1930, the company was renamed Great Universal Stores and Wolfson’s fame and fortune were built largely on its success. He became a joint managing director in 1932 and chairman in 1946.

By the late 1950s, after a series of takeovers, Wolfson controlled 2 percent of Britain’s shoe stores, 5 percent of its furniture business, and had a large stake in fashion stores, clothing factories and other enterprises.

At one point, he was Britain’s biggest retail trader, owning more than 2,000 stores and more than 250 companies. In the 1950s it was said that one- quarter of the British population of more than 50 million were his customers.

Great Universal Stores today is valued at $4.8 billion. Wolfson became its president for life in 1987.

He was created a baronet by Queen Elizabeth II in 1962 and the same year became president of the United Synagogue, the leading synagogal organization of Anglo-Jewry.

His wife Edith, whom he married in 1926, died in 1981. He is survived by his heir, Lord Wolfson.

No funeral arrangements were immediately announced.

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