As a star investment banker, Dan Yealland brokered many of the biggest deals in grocery retail in recent years, spearheading Ocado’s flotation, advising Malcolm Walker on his £1.45bn Iceland MBO, and selling South African retailer Mass-Mart to Wal-mart. He was also a non-executive director of Ella’s Kitchen, the fast-growth baby food brand and an investor in Farmison, the online meat retailer, and Brekfix, a new breakfast drink startup.

But with his sad and early death, grocery retailers and manufacturers paid tribute this week not only to Yealland’s brilliance, but his generosity of spirit, and impish sense of fun.

A Bristol University economics graduate, Yealland worked for UBS from 1997 - and subsequently spent three years working for them in New York - before joining Goldman Sachs in 2005. As a managing director and lead retail contact at the investment bank, he was to enjoy huge success. One of his crowning achievements was the Ocado IPO in 2010. Ocado CEO Tim Steiner said: “He was a really special, decent, fun and incredibly smart guy who was a special friend to me personally and to the business.”

Jason Gissing, a co-founder of Ocado, added: “We are devastated. He was our advisor for 12 years. And a good friend. Life is fragile and it’s easy to forget this when we get caught up in the daily grind. He was a talented man with a wonderful spirit. I will miss him forever.”

More recently, Yealland acted as an advisor to Iceland founder Malcolm Walker on the £1.45bn Iceland MBO, which was completed earlier this year. “Although I only knew Dan for a year he became a very good friend,” Walker told The Grocer. “He had such an effect on me and my friends who met him, and my children, who met him briefly. I was looking forward to many years of friendship and doing things together.

“The guy was such fun. He lived life to the full. We met through our business deal, but he made light of everything, and every business meeting was a fun meeting. We had some incredible nights out. Sometimes people you know die and you are sad but it doesn’t have a great effect. But Dan’s passing has had a big effect on me. I still think about him. I think we would have had many years of fun and adventure together.”

Yealland also made a strong impression on Morrisons CFO Richard Pennycook. After Morrisons acquired Kiddicare, Pennycook recalls that Yealland was advising another party. “As usual, he was completely gracious, and was one of the first to phone and congratulate us.”

“He was such a lovely guy. You expect them to be hugely bright, because that goes with the territory, but you don’t expect them to be charming, enthusiastic and fun. When he left Goldman Sachs, we started to talk about the potential to work together, and it’s a great sadness this will not now happen.”

Two years ago, Yealland teamed up with Andy Bond, the ex-CEO of Asda, to launch Manchester Square Holdings, an investment vehicle. They first met in 2006, when Yealland tried to sell him Somerfield. He was also unsuccessful in persuading Bond to take Asda private. And as Bond recalls, “The only time we ever actually worked on a deal was when I headed the purchase of Massmart for Walmart, and Dan was the sell-side advisor ie on the other side of the table! We often joked about who got the best deal, the buyer or seller.”

Through mutual respect, however, they became friends and partners. “Dan was a wonderful colleague and friend. He epitomised the values I treasure most in life: energy, commitment and integrity. He brought positive energy and intellect to all he did.

He adds: “Dan’s untimely death is so sad. I miss him dearly, but my loss is insignificant compared to that for his lovely wife Liska and their three young children. My heart goes out to them.”

Yealland was also one of the original investors in Ella’s Kitchen, and was a non-executive director and member of the board. “He was not only a huge advocate of our vision but also a wonderful source of personal support, guidance and friendship. He will be greatly missed, but always remembered, and the thoughts of the entire Ella’s Kitchen team are with his wife and young children at this sad time.”

Dan Yealland died on 27 October 2012, age 37. He leaves behind wife Liska, and three children, Cairis, Tristan and Freya. His funeral took place on 15 November at St George’s, Hanover Square, London.

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