Foundation Guide

A Tour of Our Global Community of Giving

Foundation Guide

A Tour of Our Global Community of Giving

 David Sainsbury

David Sainsbury – The Giving Grocer

Foundation Guide - David Sainsbury

Early life and Career

Eldest son of Sir Robert Sainsbury and nephew of Lord Sainsbury, David John Sainsbury, Baron Sainsbury of Turville attended prestigious Eton College before studying History and Psychology at King’s College, Cambridge University. He followed this with an MBS from Columbia Business School in the United States.

The Sainsbury brand was started by his great-grandparents in 1869 and the humble London-based grocer’s shop went on to become of the UK’s largest supermarkets chains. David joined the company in 1963, starting work in the personnel department. In 1966 he was appointed as a director of the company and worked as Financial Controller from 1971 to 1973 when the company listed on the London Stock Exchange in what was the largest listing ever at that time. The Sainsbury family retained 85% of the shares in the newly listed company, Sir Robert’s shares going to David and his uncle’s shares being split between his three sons.


Though David joined the Labour Party in the 1960’s he entered politics as a member of the Social Democratic Party and after the 1983 election David was the largest donor to the party as well as a trustee. He donated over £750 000 to special projects undertaken by the party, between 1981 and 1987. After the dissolution of the SDP in 1990 David once more returned to the Labour Party and in 1997 took up his place in the House of Lords as a Labour peer Baron Sainsbury of Turville.

Despite some rocky years and allegations of financial misconduct over donations, Sainsbury served as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Trade and Industry and as the Minister for Science and Innovation in the House of Lords, receiving no salary during his tenure.

During the 2016 European Union membership referendum campaign, Sainsbury donated over £4 million to the ‘Remain’ campaign.

Philanthropy and Sponsorship

David Sainsbury founded the Gatsby Charitable Foundation in 1967. He donated £200 million of Sainsbury shares to the foundation in 1993 and by 2009 the foundation had disbursed over £600 million to charitable causes. Also in 2009, Sainsbury donated a further £465 million to the foundation making good on his 2005 promise to donate over £1 billion to charity. He was the first British citizen to make a donation of this size.

In 1987, he established the Sainsbury Management Fellowship aimed at the development of engineer in the United Kingdom.

The Gatsby Charitable Foundation has donated over £127 million to the University of Cambridge including £45 million to the Cambridge University Botanic Garden and £82 million to the Cambridge Sainsbury Laboratory.

David and his wife Susie joined the Giving Pledge in 2013 pledging to donate half his wealth to charitable trusts during his lifetime.

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