An Auckland businessman, who set up some of New Zealand's biggest retail stores, died yesterday, aged 99.

Dennis Nathan and his three brothers in the 1930s took over LD Nathan, which owned supermarket chains Super Value and Woolworths and also started Big Fresh, Price Chopper and Deka.

Their grandfather, David, started the company in 1840, exporting flax and kauri gum. It was sold in 1988 and merged with Lion Breweries.

Son Jeremy, 72, told the Herald his father died in Auckland City Hospital yesterday morning. Despite health problems in his later years, he was an avid gardener and enjoyed boating and reading.


"He was always very interested in the crises of the world," Jeremy Nathan said.

"He was a very good-looking man, he dressed beautifully and everyone would say that he was a real gentleman ... He was a delightful, charming, sweet man."

Mr Nathan was partially deaf from artillery training during World War II, when he was a lieutenant in the Pacific Islands.

He later set up the Dennis Nathan Educational Trust which funds education for people born deaf.

He also helped set up the local branch of international charity United Way in 1974. It collates donations and distributes money to welfare charities.

Born in Paris to a French mother and a New Zealand father, Mr Nathan spent most of his childhood in Manurewa but later lived in Epsom with his wife, May, who died in 1997, aged 84, and their three children.