Out of the frying pan into the fire: Marks and Spencer CFO Alan Stewart defects to Tesco

It's musical chairs at two of the UK's biggest and most beleaguered retailers, as M&S' finance chief leaves for Tesco.

by Rachel Savage
Last Updated: 23 Sep 2014

Marks & Spencer chief financial officer Alan Stewart is stepping down, according to a company statement, in yet another blow to the beleaguered retailer, and is jumping ship to Tesco.

It comes just days after M&S chief executive Marc Bolland came under fire over its embattled clothing business. Clothing sales fell 0.6% year-on-year in the 13 weeks to the end of June - the 12th straight quarter of decline and far from the ever elusive turnaround Bolland keeps promising.

It is also three months after Tesco's former CFO Laurie McIlwee resigned and two weeks after its general merchandise director Neela Mukherjee quit. The supermarket's market share continues to fall as customers defect to German discounters Aldi and Lidl and sales slid 3.8% in the in the quarter to 24 May.

M&S have not yet lined up a replacement, according to reports, and the company's statement gave nothing away. Shareholders of the two companies seem a tad unhappy, if not incadescent, at the news. Both M&S and Tesco's shares were down around 0.3% in mid-morning trading.

'When we set out on this search we wanted a candidate who had the right blend of experience, leadership and values to play a leading role in the transformation of Tesco,' Tesco boss Philip Clarke said in a stock market statement.

'We have found all three in Alan. I am looking forward to working alongside him and I know Tesco will benefit from the breadth and depth of his experience.'

Clarke certainly needs all the help he can get at the moment and it is definitely a case of out of the frying pan into the fire for Stewart. Tesco investors, for their part, could be forgiven for raising an eyebrow: poaching an exec from a company that is also struggling to maintain its hold on British consumers probably won't fill anyone with confidence.

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