GORDON Baxter, one of Scotland’s best known businessmen and the president of the Baxters Food Group, has died at the age of 95.
Mr Baxter and his wife Edna played a leading role in transforming the Speyside-based food company into an international brand and the biggest private sector employer in Moray.
A spokesman for the Baxter family said Mr Baxter had died peacefully, surrounded by his family, on Friday evening.
He said: “Mr Baxter became an iconic Scottish business figure during his tenure of the world famous Fochabers based family business. He passed over control to his daughter Audrey Baxter, the fourth generation of the family to run the business, in 1992.
“When Mr Baxter returned to Baxters after the war, the year he came back the business had only 11 employees and a turnover of £44,000. Over the years, with his brother and their wives, they worked tirelessly to build the foundations of a business that grew over many years achieving great success.”
The history of Baxters dates back to 1868 when George Baxter opened a grocery shop at Fochabers. The business was later handed to William and Ethel Baxter, whose sons Gordon and Ian joined shortly after the Second World War.
Gordon and Edna Baxter were married in 1952 and they spent some time in America, spreading the name of the company and building up its reputation. The company, which produced a variety of preserves and sauces, went into the soup-making business after the couple found a book containing a Louisiana recipe called Chicken Gumbo and Mrs Baxter made it. The recipe marked the beginning of the company’s production of its world-famous soup varieties.
Mr Baxter was awarded the OBE in 1968 for his services to British exports and made a CBE in 2010 in recognition of his services to business and charity in the North east of Scotland.Five years ago he was granted the Freedom of Moray by Moray Council in recognition of his contribution to the economic, social and cultural life of Moray.
Angus Robertson, the MP for Moray, said: “He was an amazing and inspirational man. Scotland has lost a great entrepreneur who had an abiding commitment to Fochabers and Moray as a whole. My thoughts are with his family and many friends.”
Richard Lochhead, Moray’s MSP, described Mr Baxter as a “business legend and a great man.” He continued: “Moray has lost one of its most famous sons. Gordon Baxter was a giant of a man in so many ways and put Baxters on the map the world over. He was first and foremost a family man, rooted in his own community which he supported throughout his life. The whole of Fochabers and Moray will mourn the loss of this great man”
Councillor Stewart Cree, the Convener of Moray Council, said: “This is indeed sad news. Gordon was an iconic businessman who put Moray and Speyside on the international map.“He loved this area, and helped many local causes through his Gordon Baxter Foundation. As a mark of his many achievements the Moray Council awarded him the Freedom of Moray a few years ago, one of very few recipients of this honour.”
A spokesman for the Baxters Food Group said: “There will be a private family funeral later this week. A memorial service will be held later in the year in the village of Fochabers where all will be welcome.”