business news in context, analysis with attitude

•  Sir Terence Conran, who through design and an extensive fleet of retail stores popularized modern design, passed away over the weekend.  He was 88.

The New York Times obit describes him as "a London designer and retailing magnate who eased the gloom of postwar British austerity with stylish home furnishings affordable on a teacher’s salary, and then suffered financial reverses before reinventing himself as an international restaurateur and doyen of modern design."

The Times goes on to say that Conran "was an entrepreneur of mercurial moods and missionary zeal who created an empire to market his designs, stores known in Europe as Habitat and in America as Conran Shops.  After his business declined, he opened restaurants in London, Paris and New York - notably Guastavino’s, a dining cathedral under the tiled terra-cotta arches of the Queensboro Bridge in Manhattan.

"He wrote scores of books on design, cooking and other subjects; turned a London warehouse riverfront into a fashionable South Bank commercial development; founded the Design Museum, Britain’s only museum for contemporary products and architectural designs; and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. He also married four times, had five children and collected wildflowers, butterflies, old master paintings and Bugatti pedal cars."

At one point, at the company's heights in the late 1980s, Conran had 900 stores around the world, 35,000 employees and billions in annual revenue.

While he was given his knighthood in 1983, Conran famously said he only used the title when making reservations.