An Easter phone call to my 90 year-old grandmother in the north west of England, still going strong, brought me the news that local entrepreneur Doreen Lofthouse had died. Doreen was the figurehead behind Fisherman's Friend, a globally successful lozenge business based in the small Lancashire seaside town of Fleetwood, and something to which I have been partial over the years (we all have our vices I suppose!)
I have always been impressed at the global reach of Fisherman's Friend - having been surprised to see them in shops in Thailand, Australia and many others. Truly this small local business went a long way.
However, what interested me most as I read the obituaries was not just the global success of the brand, but the high esteem with which Lofthouse appears to have been held in the local community. As I dug deeper it became apparent that she was a living example of many of the concepts and attributes that we private client advisers often talk about - family business wealth, orderly succession, and the purpose and meaning of wealth.
Until the recent passing of her husband the directors of the company were just three in number - Doreen, her husband Tony and her son Duncan. Meanwhile the shares appear to have been held by the same three individuals, with the Lofthouse Foundation, set up by Doreen, joining them on the shareholders' register.
It would be fascinating to see how Doreen's passing will be managed, and whether a well-planned succession has been mapped out. Questions of who will inherit the shares, who will join the board, and who will be tasked with driving the company forward, will hopefully have been planned well in advance.
Meanwhile a community is in mourning. As entrepreneurs and wealth owners think through their legacy, and what it might mean to think through the purpose of wealth, they could do much worse than to look at the story of Doreen Lofthouse. As one local trustee put it:
"They used money for their very successful business in an attempt to make Fleetwood a more attractive place for people who lived there and visitors.
"But by building their company they did something else very important - they created jobs in a town where work can be hard to find."
Now that is a legacy. Next time you see them in a shop somewhere far away from Fleetwood, make sure you raise a lozenge for Doreen.
Mrs Lofthouse had been a key figure in the company and in her hometown, where her loss is being mourned by locals. She set up 'The Lofthouse Foundation' to fund community projects including improvements to the town’s promenade, Mount Pavilion, playgrounds and Hospital. Mrs Lofthouse also donated a replacement for the town's landmark Eros statue after the original was damaged by sea air and salty water. And in 2019, Mrs Lofthouse and her family set aside a whopping £30 million to help fund future community projects in her beloved seaside town.