Former Morrisons chairman and life president Sir Ken Morrison CBE has died.

Sir Ken led Morrisons for more than half a century, during which the company grew from a small family business into the UK’s fourth-largest food retailer.

Under his leadership, the business introduced innovations including Market Street and a vertical sourcing model, with the business operating 15 of its own manufacturing sites, including the Rathbones Bakery in Wakefield.

Sir Ken was Morrisons’ chairman until 2008. At the time of his retirement, Morrisons had 375 stores.

He was awarded the CBE in 1990 and knighted in the Millennium New Year’s Honours list for services to the food retailing industry.

Morrisons said he will be “greatly missed by many thousands of his current and former colleagues, a large number of whom became close personal friends over the years”.

“I know I speak for the whole company when I say how profoundly sad we were to hear of Sir Ken’s death,” said current Morrisons chairman Andrew Higginson.

“He was an inspirational leader and the driving force behind Morrisons for over half a century. Although he retired several years ago, his legacy is evident every day and in every aspect of our business.

“Taking Morrisons from a small Bradford-based family business to a major UK grocery retailing chain is an outstanding achievement in the history of UK business. On a personal level, Ken was an enormous help to me as we made some significant changes to set the business on a new course; his knowledge of retail and his strategic insights have remained as relevant and intuitive as they were when he first built the business.

“Ken will be remembered by us all for his leadership, his passion for retailing and for his great love of Morrisons. To honour his memory in the most appropriate way we can, we will continue to develop the company that he built and loved.

“We will miss his friendship and his wise counsel very deeply, and our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.”