LONDON (FNS) -- Sir Robert Sainsbury, a former chairman of J. Sainsbury plc here and a well known patron of the arts, died April 2 at age 93.
f the food retailer's founder John James Sainsbury.
Robert Sainsbury, who was known within the family company as Mr. R.J., joined the family food retailer in 1930 specializing in finance, personnel and administration. He worked for 30 years overseeing Sainsbury's in close cooperation with his brother Alan, who handled the company's trading operations. Both had the title joint general manager and together they built Sainsbury's into the U.K.'s largest food retailer at that time.
Sainsbury became the company's chairman in 1967 upon the retirement of his brother and held the position until his retirement in 1969, when he was named honorary joint president with his brother. He was succeeded as chairman by his nephew John Sainsbury, Alan Sainsbury's son, who held the position until 1992 when he retired and became president.
John Sainsbury, now Lord Sainsbury of Preston, in turn was succeeded as chairman by Robert Sainsbury's son David, who had received the bulk of his father's shareholding in the company. David Sainsbury, now Lord Sainsbury of Turville, stepped down as chairman in 1998 to join the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair. That opened the way for the first non-Sainsbury to become chairman of the family company.
In addition to his role at the family company, Robert Sainsbury was known as a major collector of such artists as Francis Bacon and Alberto Giacommetti. In 1973 he donated 600 works, almost his entire collection, to the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, where it's now housed in the Robert and Louise Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts.