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William Vestey, 1st Baron Vestey Bt (21 January 1859 – 10 December 1940) was an English shipping magnate.
William first managed a meat canning factory that was financed by his father. Together with his younger brother Edmund, he established Vestey Brothers (which later became the Vestey Group) in 1897 from a family butchery business in Liverpool. They were pioneers of refrigeration, opening a cold store in London in 1895.
The Vestey brothers then went to South America in an attempt to make a fortune because the economy there was booming. They started by buying game birds and storing them in the cold stores of American companies before shipping them to Liverpool. These early activities soon developed into importing beef and beef products into the UK, which in turn led to them owning cattle ranches in Brazil, Venezuela and Australia and their own meat processing factories in Argentina, Uruguay (Frigorífico Anglo del Uruguay), New Zealand and Australia.
In 1914 the Vestey Brothers built a meat processing works at Bullocky Point, Darwin, Australia, but closed its operations in 1920 after the Darwin Rebellion. The Vestey Group's cattle station in Australia was the focus of a landmark strike in the 1960s, the Gurindji strike, which was instrumental in Indigenous Australians regaining rights to their land.
In 1915 the brothers, after being refused a request for income tax exemption made to David Lloyd George, moved to Buenos Aires to avoid paying income tax in the UK. The family later administered the business through a Paris trust that enabled it to legally avoid UK tax until the loophole was closed in 1991.
During World War I another Vestey company, the Blue Star Line (now part of P&O Nedlloyd), was a major supplier of Argentine beef to England, and it was for this service to the wartime provisioning of England that William Vestey was later raised to the peerage. William Vestey was made a Baronet on 21 June 1913 and Baron Vestey on 20 June 1922.
In 1915 to 1918 the Vestey family moved to Chicago then to Argentina and back to England. Lord Vestey later became an important benefactor to Liverpool Cathedral, where he funded the building of the bell tower.
His first wife died in 1923 and was buried in Liverpool Cathedral. Lord Vestey then married Evelene Brodstone of Superior, Nebraska on 1 August 1924. She had been working as a stenographer with the Vestey Meat Packing Plant in Chicago, where she was spotted by Vestey's brother. She would rise through the company, eventually becoming the highest paid female executive in the world. On 24 July 1941 the 2nd Lady Vestey was buried at Evergreen Cemetery of Superior in Nebraska USA. Each spring during memorial weekend, Superior holds the annual Lady Vestey Festival in her honor. This is the town's largest annual celebration and it attracts many people from around the area.
Lord Vestey died in 1940 and his ashes were buried in Liverpool Cathedral. He was succeeded by Samuel Vestey, 2nd Baron Vestey (1882–1954).
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