Tycoon’s widow Lady Kagan leaves more than £700,000

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LADY Margaret Kagan, whose husband Joseph was one of the best-known tycoons of his era, left more than £700,000 her will reveals.

She and her husband, who both had Jewish parentage, escaped the Nazis in their native Lithuania during the Second World War and settled in Huddersfield in 1946.

A brilliant and flamboyant entrepreneur, Joseph Kagan became a close friend of the Huddersfield-born Prime Minister, Harold Wilson.

He made his name with Gannex raincoats which were worn by Royalty and leading figures across the world and created a huge business empire worth millions of pounds.

But he was jailed for 10 months for theft in 1980 and lost his knighthood, although he later spoke on prison reform in the Lords. He died in 1995.

Documents show Lady Kagan, who lived frugally in a detached house in Redwood Drive, Bradley, Huddersfield, left £736,071 (£626,729 net).

The 86-year-old who died on March 31, left £250,000 tax-free to her trustees, daughter Jenny, a lighting designer, who lives in the Lake District with her husband Andy, a professor, and her two sons, Daniel who lives in America and Michael, 60, the eldest, who has Israeli connections.

Lady Kagan also made three charitable bequests including £30,000 to the Holocaust Centre Beth Shalom, £25,000 to the British Friends of Neve Shalom and £10,000 to the Brewery Arts Centre.

Three years ago she agreed to sell a fairytale home in the Lake District, Eusemere, on the banks of Ullswater, which had been a holiday home for the Kagan family for the past four decades and was a favourite resting place of the poet William Wordsworth. The house had a price tag of over £3m.

The Kagans’ famous Gannex mill in Elland, one of Calderdale’s best-known landmarks, which at one time hummed to the sound of machinery and the noise of hundreds of workers, was demolished recently and the site is now a housing estate.

Lady Kagan was director of Kagan Textiles until its recent winding up.

She also spent 10 years in the United States from 1981 where she tried her hand at selling vacuum cleaners but failed to sell one and was sacked. She had much better success as a Boston tour guide.

Margarita (Mara) Shtromaite was born on July 12, 1924, in Riga, Latvia, and grew up in Kaunas. Her parents lived a secular, cosmopolitan lifestyle and she was one of the few Jewish students who attended her high school.

When she died, family and friends from across the world travelled to Huddersfield Town Hall to pay their respects.

Jenny Kagan was approached for comment by the Yorkshire Post but declined to reply.