M&S boss is sold on his Jewish heritage

Marks & Spencer chairman Robert Swannell regaled the 100-plus guests at a Jewish Care business breakfast at the BT Tower with stories of his enterprising Jewish ancestors.

Mr Swannell said he had recently begun researching his antecedents in preparation for his appearance at Monday’s fundraiser. “I have been aware that my great-grandfather Alfred Abrahams was Jewish but the opportunity to speak at Jewish Care has been a catalyst for a journey of discovery.

“I have learnt that he started life in very humble circumstances in London’s East End where I believe he made his living by selling goats’ cheese in the Whitechapel Road.”

He had further discovered that Mr Abrahams had gone to South Africa in the 1880s “to seek his fortune in the diamond trade and was one of the early shareholders in De Beers. His son, Harry Abrahams, was chairman of the Diamond Corporation in London for many years. Regrettably, history tells me that as fast as my great-grandfather made money, his daughter — my grandmother — spent it.” The breakfast raised in excess of £20,000.

Last updated: 4:11pm, June 21 2012