The former chairman of WHSmith Sir Simon Hornby has died, aged 75.

He was chairman of the stationery and greetings card retailer from 1982 to 1994, and was the third generation of his family to take a management position at the business.

Hornby has been credited with expanding its offer by making acquisitions to bolster the firm, such as music chain Our Price in 1986.

Profits grew in the 1980s and he was praised for his early adoption of EPoS technology as well as his passion for store design. However, after Hornby’s departure the parts of the group he had built up started to be sold off, with Our Price eventually being sold to Sir Richard Branson.

Upmarket greetings card retailer Paperchase, acquired under Hornby in 1986, was also sold to management in 1996. A spokesman for WHSmith said Hornby “he made a valuable contribution to the board and the company as a whole. Our condolences go out to the family at this difficult time”.

The Etonian’s father Michael Hornby was vice-chairman of WHSmith from 1944 to 1965, while his grandfather CH St John Hornby helped found the business.

Sir Simon Hornby, who had Parkinson’s in his later years, joined WHSmith as a trainee in 1958 before becoming retail director in 1974, when he joined the retailer’s board. He was appointed group chief executive in 1978, then chairman in 1982.

He has been described as a witty speaker with a passion for art, books and horticulture.