Philanthropist Lord Wolfson dies at 82

By Jessica Elgot, May 24, 2010
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Lord Wolfson was knighted in 1977

Lord Wolfson was knighted in 1977

Businessman and philanthropist Lord Wolfson, founder trustee of the Wolfson Foundation, has died aged 82.

During his lifetime, the Wolfson Foundation donated more than £1 billion for academic projects, equipment, and studies at hospitals and universities in arts, science and health. Israeli universities benefited greatly from the foundation, including projects at the Technion Institute in Haifa and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, where the Wolfson Foundation supported the Wolfson Centre for Applied Structural Biology.

Leonard Wolfson was the son of Sir Isaac Wolfson, a Jewish immigrant from Russia, who settled in Glasgow. Sir Isaac's legendary company, Great Universal Stores, became one of Britain’s most successful retail, manufacturing and mail order businesses, buying Burberry in 1955.

Lord Wolfson became managing director of his father’s business in 1962 and co-chairman in 1981 when his father began to suffer from Alzheimer’s.

He led the company away from high street retail and back into mail order, finance and property. In 1991 when Isaac died, the company was worth £3bn.

Between 1972 to 1982, Lord Wolfson was president of the Jewish Welfare Board. He was also a trustee of the Imperial War Museum.

He was knighted in 1977, eventually becoming a conservative peer, styled Lord Wolfson of Marylebone. He also inherited his father’s baronetcy.

He founded the Wolfson Foundation with his parents in 1955, endowing it with £6m from GUS. In 2010 the foundation awarded more than £600m in grants, funding over 8,000 projects to support excellence in science, medicine, health, arts and humanties. He was also chairman of the Wolfson Family Charitable Trust.

A statement from the Wolfson Foundation said: “The work and philosophy of both charities have been shaped to a considerable extent by his influence, and under his financial stewardship the funds have grown to their present level of some £750 million.”

    Last updated: 3:05pm, May 24 2010