Peter Asquith

THE last surviving founder of Asda and a successful racehorse owner, Peter Asquith, who has died age 81, was an ebullient, colourful character who, long after normal retirement age, showed no sign of calling it a day.

Interviewed two years ago for the Yorkshire Post, that morning he had opened an Asda Essentials store in Pontefract, cutting through a 15ft piece of liquorice, and later in the week was seen at York races, having no doubt spent the morning, as he regularly did, at the Asda headquarters in Leeds. He was, after all, honorary life president of the American-owned supermarket chain.

He was at the same time running a successful property business in Pontefract which helped Asda supermarket chain find suitable sites for new stores.

There are differing accounts of Peter's role in the founding of Asda, but in his conversation with this newspaper he was adamant that his version was the correct one

"My mum and dad were in the butchers' trade," he recalled. "They had three mobile operations and three established ones in the area."

Peter and his brother Fred, who died in 2002, had been involved in the business, WR Asquith, before deciding to go it alone.

Their first store was in Pontefract in 1958, and it remained undistinguished until they entered into a promotion with Crosse and Blackwell.

It involved customers sending off a sticker from the sauces to get a sixpence postal order back.

The Asquith brothers decided to take the stickers off themselves and send off for the postal orders. They were thus able to sell the sauces for sixpence less than any other store.

He said: "We never looked back after that."

In 1963, Fred, Peter and their business partner Jack Hewitt, who later became managing director of Asda, converted a former cinema in Castleford, which had originally been The Queens theatre, into a self-service supermarket.

A second Queens outlet followed at Edlington, near Doncaster, and in 1965 Peter built their first supermarket from scratch on the site of the old Palace Cinema at South Elmsall, near Pontefract.

As the business grew, the Asquiths and Mr Hewitt joined forces with Associated Dairies, "ASquith" and "DAiries" leading to the birth of Asda.

In 1980 Peter left the company, citing a "policy disagreement" as the main reason for his departure.

In his 60s, and despite his success with racehorses, he was hungry to get back into business and in 1989 he rejoined Asda.

Approaching his 80th birthday, he was asked why he was still so active, to which he replied: "I've always enjoyed what I'm doing and that makes a real difference. While my heart is still beating, I'll carry on."

Peter Asquith went to The King's School in Pontefract, leaving at 16. By his own admission, he was not "much of an academic", but he excelled at rugby and swimming.

As a racehorse owner, his most successful horse of recent years was Celtic Mill, which won the St Giles Handicap at Pontefract in 2003 and the Scarborough Stakes at Doncaster in 2004.

Pre-deceased by his wife, Peter Asquith leaves his daughter,

Gay.