The Daily Telegraph
Heir to a bakery empire who chose ranching in Texas instead
GRAINGER WESTON, who has died a month before his 100th birthday, was the heir to an Anglo-canadian bakery empire but chose a different life as a Texas rancher, entrepreneur and philanthropist.
He was the eldest of nine offspring of Garfield Weston, who built one of the world’s largest food conglomerates. Capable of great charm, Garfield was also a domineering patriarch: it was Grainger’s younger brother Garry who succeeded their father to run the major UK business, Associated British Foods, but only after a 14-year interlude in which “I had to go to Australia to get away from him.”
Grainger was a free thinker – as one observer put it, “a cavalier among the puritans” of the Weston dynasty. He strove to meet Garfield’s expectations, before setting an independent course for the rest of his life by acquiring the Santa Clara Ranch at Marion, Texas.
Over six decades he expanded the property to 4,000 acres and developed it, banning chemical fertilisers, extracting geothermal energy and not pruning trees. According to his children, “he dreamed of the ranch becoming a Lone Star version of an English country estate, preserved for all time.”
George Grainger Weston was born in Toronto on November 12 1923 to Garfield Weston and Reta, née Howard, whose family originated from northern Ireland. His grandfather, William Weston, a Londoner, had emigrated to Toronto in 1857; William’s son George went into biscuit-making, remarking that “People will eat horse s--- if it has enough icing on it.”
It was Garfield who conceived the idea of bringing the Weston company’s manufacturing methods, using plentiful, strong Canadian wheat, across the Atlantic. He bought up UK bakeries and mills to create Allied Bakeries, later Associated British Foods, and in 1951 bought Fortnum & Mason, the Piccadilly grocers.
Grainger spent much of his early life at his parents’ Wittington estate near Marlow, Bucks; at 14, he was accidentally shot in the legs during a pheasant shoot, taking a year to recover.
He went up to Oxford University, but his studies were curtailed by service as an officer of a Royal Canadian Navy patrol vessel in the North Atlantic during the Second World War.
After the war he was dispatched by Garfield to explore business possibilities in India, and later to learn manufacturing in a biscuit factory at Fort Worth; he and his English bride Caroline initially lived in a single room at one end of the factory, with a bathroom at the other end. But the experience nurtured his love of Texas and he later ran a bakery company of his own, Grandma’s Cookies, in San Antonio.
In 1956 Garfield bought a beautiful but undeveloped estate in Jamaica. In due course Grainger and Caroline took over the project to create the Frenchman’s Cove resort, where Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton and members of the British Royal family became regular guests. The scene in the James Bond film Dr No (1962) in which Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder emerges bikini-clad from the sea was captured on the Frenchman’s Cove beach.
Grainger Weston also acquired a 500-passenger ship, rechristened Jamaica Queen, which pioneered Caribbean cruising.
He contributed to schools and community projects in Jamaica and in Texas (where he endowed the Caroline Weston Performing Arts Center at Texas Lutheran University), spoke several languages, played piano and accordion, and was deeply interested in psychology.
He married, in 1950, Caroline Cecily Douglasscott-montagu, daughter of the 2nd Lord Montagu of Beaulieu. They were divorced in 1987, but remained close until her death in 2017. He is survived by three sons and a daughter; a fourth son predeceased him.