Almost four months after Richard Broadbent announced he was on the way out, Tesco could finally be closing in on a new chairman. Reports suggest his successor could be named as soon as this week, but who will it be?
The money had been firmly on John Allan, the deputy chairman of Dixons Carphone, after former Kingfisher chief Sir Ian Cheshire ruled himself out. But the latest gossip is that ITV chairman and former Asda boss Archie Norman is all but confirmed. The FT reports that two of Tesco’s biggest shareholders are pushing for Norman to be appointed.
‘In the case of Tesco, you absolutely need a strong chairman. Archie Norman fits the bill,' one said. ‘Mr Allan made money for Exel when he was there, so I am not saying he is not a good person to have as chairman of a top company, but not Tesco. This is a company that needs a strong chairman with experience in the sector as they are taking over at a very difficult time for the group.’
A former MP, Norman was credited with the successful turnaround of Asda after he was brought on board in 1991 and led the business through its sale to American giant Walmart.
‘The chairman position, in taking so long to remedy, perhaps shows the perceived poisoned chalice that is this role,’ said Clive Black, a retail analyst at Shore Capital. ‘If Archie Norman can be persuaded and complements and supports Dave Lewis then we see it as a 'win-win'; the incumbent is a wounded animal and Tesco can only benefit from a credible figurehead.’
Norman has a reputation for nurturing talent having employed an impressive lineup of retail stars, including former Sainsbury’s CEO Justin King, ex-Asda boss Andy Bond, former Halfords top dog Ian Mcleod and former Boots chief Richard Baker. He’s also known for advocating a ‘single status’ approach to people management, where managers avoid lauding their superiority over other staff.
‘If a business is frugal with its costs it requires the leadership to lead,’ he wrote in October. ‘If the board is seen to indulge itself, it legitimitises extravagance across the company.’ That attitude is likely to sit well with Tesco’s chief exec Dave Lewis, who has a reputation for cost-cutting and last year confirmed plans to sell off the supermarket’s fleet of five private jets.
Since leaving Asda, Norman has been linked with roles at M&S, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons, as the City has awaited his return to retail with bated breath. Perhaps this week they will finally get their wish.