Sir Leonard Wolfson, who was a director of Great Universal Stores (GUS) for 44 years, died last week, aged 82.

The very private Wolfson, cousin to Lord David Wolfson who succeeded him at GUS, was a philanthropist and founded the Wolfson Foundation in 1955, endowing it with £6m of GUS shares.

During his lifetime, over £1bn at current values was invested in education, hospitals and the arts.

Wolfson joined GUS, the company started by his father, Isaac, and was made a director in 1952. He became managing director in 1962 and in 1981 took over from his father as chairman, a role he held until 1996. He was also chairman of luxury brand Burberry, which became part of the GUS group, from 1978 to 1996.

He was described as “tough” by those who knew him. Former Next boss Sir David Jones, who worked under Wolfson at GUS, described a bittersweet relationship with him in his book Next to Me: Luck, Leadership and Living with Parkinson’s.

“We had good times together as well as difficult times, I learnt important lessons from both - although some of these lessons were negative, rather than positive,” Jones wrote.

Wolfson was knighted in 1977 and in 1985 was made a life peer - Lord Wolfson of Marylebone.