‘A truly gifted retailer’ – Penneys founder Arthur Ryan passes away aged 83

It is with great sadness that we share the news of the passing of Penneys founder, Mr Arthur Ryan, at the age of 83.


Mr Ryan, who had served as CEO of the discount fashion brand between 1969 and 2009, passed away after a short illness. Mr Ryan was the driving force behind the phenominal global growth of Penneys (operating as Primark outside or Ireland) retail chain which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

From small beginnings in Mary Street, which opened its doors in 1969, with a “pile them high and sell them cheap” mantra, Ryan masterminded the growth of the cut price fashion chain into a major international player which now has 372 stores in 12 countries and more than 75,000 employees.


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

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.

Speaking on the passing of Mr Ryan, George Weston, CEO of Associated British Foods, said, “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.”

The Cork Business Association would like to extend our sincerest sympathies to Arthur's Wife Alma, his family and friends at this very difficult time. Mr Ryan's death is a tremendous loss but he will always be remembered for his outstanding contribution to retail in Ireland.