Tennis Canada was saddened by the news of the passing of former board member Donald Sobey at the age of 86.

Sobey was also the former President and Chair of Empire Company Limited, whose subsidiary – Sobeys Inc. – is a major corporate partner of Tennis Canada’s and the organization’s ATP and WTA 1000 National Bank Open presented by Rogers events.

Born in Stellarton, Nova Scotia, Sobey joined the family business in his early life and worked in real estate before being named to Empire’s Board of Directors in 1963. He was appointed President in 1969 and Chair in 1985, retiring some 19 years later in 2004 when he was named Chair Emeritus.

Donald C. R. Sobey (CNW Group/Empire Company Limited)

Sobey was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2014 and was known for his philanthropy and passion for the arts. He received honorary degrees from seven universities and played an important role in developing scholarships for many higher education establishments across the country.

Sobey served on Tennis Canada’s Board of Directors in the 1990s.

“Donald Sobey was not only a visionary entrepreneur but also a passionate supporter of tennis,” said Jack Graham, former Chair of the Board at Tennis Canada. “He enjoyed his time on the Board of Directors of Tennis Canada and took great pleasure in seeing the recent success of Canadian players.

“He was a great supporter of various events, showcasing tennis in Nova Scotia including Davis Cup and fundraising exhibitions. We had many discussions about revitalizing tennis in Pictou County, but regrettably were not able to achieve that in his lifetime. Maybe someday.”

“Don made a material difference on the Tennis Canada board,” said Michael Downey, President and CEO of Tennis Canada. “As important, he influenced the next generation of Atlantic tennis leaders, such as Jack Graham, Derrick Rowe and others who followed in his footsteps. Don will be missed but his influence will always be present.” 

Sobey is survived by his wife, Beth, his three children, and five grandchildren.