Aug 12, 2022
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Tophsop founder and ex-Debenhams chief Halpern dies

Aug 12, 2022

British retail titan Sir Ralph Halpern has died at the age of 83. The executive, who launched the Topshop chain and once ran Debenhams, was one of the highest-profile retailers during the Thatcher era in the 1980s and into the 90s.


The son of Jewish émigrés who’d escaped the Nazi regime, he started in retail at a young age with a trainee post at Selfridges.

He later transformed the Burton menswear chain and launched the Topshop concept and brand. The Burton Group included some of the biggest names in UK retail and much of it later became Arcadia, although the Debenhams and Harvey Nichols businesses that it owned were separated out from the wider group.

His daughter Jenny Halpern Prince said: “Our father left an irreplaceable mark on the spirit of entrepreneurship and the UK’s retail landscape, and he did it in his own very special way.” 

And former Arcadia COO Stuart Rose, who was on the Burton board when Halpern was in control, told the FT that he was “one of the real movers and shakers in the 1970s and 1980s”. He also called him “very charismatic, very driven and ahead of his time. He genuinely changed the face of the high street and he should get the credit for it.” 

While he engineered the takeover of Debenhams in a £566 million deal, he was ousted from the Burton board in 1990 at a tough time for the British retail sector.

He was only 52 but didn’t go on to run another retail business. Instead he moved to Florida.

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