Head of Vestey Empire dies at the age of 75

Edmund Vestey, who has died aged 75, inherited control of the family business from his father Ronald and ran it in conjunction with his cousin Lord Vestey from the late 1970's.

This was a time when international trade faced many challenges.

The Vestey business stretched from the United Kingdom, the Americas and the Far East, and was one of the biggest family owned businesses in the world.

It was started by his grandfather - also Edmund - and great uncle William, who had identified the need for cost effective food supplies for Great Britain and Europe's growing population. From Chinese eggs to South American corned beef, meat and offals, and New Zealand and Australian lamb, mutton and beef the Vesteys embraced all aspects of protein foods adding South African fruit and South Atlantic sea food.

Their skill was to integrate all aspects of the business. From abattoirs, cold stores, shipping, packaging, shipping and distribution the Vesteys sought to bring their control and standards to every aspect of the business.

Born in 1932, educated at Eton and after serving as a subaltern with the Queen's Bays Edmund Vestey experienced every aspect of the business by working at shop floor level. He was particularly attracted to the Blue Star Line and the shipping company became his first management appointment. He was a major influence in the move to containerisation that made such a significant effect on cost efficiency. He was President of the General Council of British Shipping in 1981/2 and was called back to its successor The Chamber of Shipping in 1992 when Government policy was causing a decline in Britain's share of world maritime trade.

Despite the Vestey roots being in the international food trade the establishment of the British Beef Company set the pattern for growth in the UK meat trade as the EEC restricted import volume. This led to the expansion ofits abattoirs and retail shops, mostly trading as Dewhurst, to become the leading fresh meat butcher.

By 1990 the pattern of international trade was changing and the burdens of running a family-financed international business increased leading to the sale of many component parts and general retrenchment. This resulted in a smaller but still effective international company despite the loss of the shipping and retail elements.

He handed his responsibilities to his son George, who manages the group with his cousin Lord Vestey.

Apart from his commercial activities Edmund Vestey was a great supporter of Field Sports. A generous and loyal friend in a discreet and quiet way he supported and funded many worthy causes. His support of the British Sporting Art Trust and the establishment of the Vestey Gallery at Newmarket and Bury St Edmunds where he was an honorary canon are just two examples of his discreet generosity.

He is survived by his sons Tim, George, James and Robin.