Arthur Ryan

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Arthur Ryan
BornArthur St. John Ryan
1935 (age 83–84)
Dublin, Ireland
Alma Carroll (m. 1978)
  • Jess Ryan
  • Barry Ryan

Arthur Ryan is the founder, chairman, and former chief executive of Primark. The company Primark trades under the name of Penneys in the Republic of Ireland.

Early life[edit]

Arthur Ryan was born the son of a Cork-born insurance clerk in 1935, and went to the Synge Street CBS in Dublin after moving to the city with his family. After emigrating to London, he entered the genteel world of gentlemen's tailoring as a tie buyer at Swan & Edgar. He also worked for London fashion wholesaler Carr & McDonald. From there, he returned to Dublin and a job at Dunnes Stores in Cornelscourt.[1]

Ryan is married to the former entertainer Alma Carroll and also has a daughter. He is an intensely private man, living in one of Dublin's best-protected houses, he never gives interviews and is rarely seen in public without bodyguards. His great fear is kidnap – a real enough threat for Irish retail magnates during the Troubles. In 1981, the IRA snatched department store boss Ben Dunne; two years later, they tried to kidnap Galen Weston, scion of the Canadian family behind Primark's owner, food and retail conglomerate Associated British Foods (ABF). Ryan still takes no chances. "His daily schedule is kept secret from all but his closest aides." [2]

Ryan's son, Barry, who was 51, died while attempting to save his son and his son's girlfriend from drowning during a freak accident on 28th June 2015. The funeral was held on 5th July, and Ryan was present. Barry's son and his girlfriend also died during the rescue bid.[3]


He opened the first Penneys shop on Mary Street in Dublin in 1962.[4] Subsequently, in 1974, he took the model to Britain – renaming the stores Primark to avoid legal problems with US chain JC Penney. The major turnaround came in 2005, when Primark acquired a huge portfolio of Littlewoods stores. Meanwhile, close attention to catwalk trends made it chic as well as cheap. It went from being the "shop that nobody admitted going to" to a Mecca for celebrity shoppers. It was "Primani", darling – or "Pradamark". It now accounts for over a third of ABF's operating profits.[5] In 2009, Ryan gave up his day-to-day control of the firm as chief executive but became chairman instead.


  1. ^ Irish Tribune Magazine - Profile of Arthur Ryan
  2. ^ End of the line for Primark's Arthur Ryan
  3. ^ "Penneys founder hails son Barry Ryan (51) as a 'true hero' for sacrificing his life in brave rescue bid -". Retrieved 2017-05-28.
  4. ^ Sunday Business Post Article, 2006 Archived April 11, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ The Guardian - Primark Founder Arthur Ryan Resigns