Laurie McIlwee is the first casualty of Tesco's decline

The supermarket's finance chief has resigned - or is about to resign - because he has 'lost confidence' in Philip Clarke's strategy.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 14 Apr 2014

------ UPDATE 3.36pm: Tesco has just confirmed McIlwee has decided to step down, but will remain in his role for the time being 'to ensure a smooth handover to his successor'

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Has Laurie McIlwee, Tesco’s finance director, already resigned, as some have reported – or is it the case that he ‘could resign within the week’, as others maintained? A Tesco spokesperson was giving away nothing this morning, but either way word on the street (or in the aisle) is that McIlwee, who’s been in the job for five months (before that he was UK finance director), will depart shortly.

McIlwee has been having trouble for some time: in October, just after Tesco announced pre-tax profits had dropped by almost a quarter in the first half of its financial year, the supermarket’s shareholders turned their guns on McIlwee, accusing him of being ‘not world-class’. Ouch.

To be fair, you can see why investors are disgruntled: its share price has pretty much been on a downward trajectory for the past six months.


Source: Yahoo Finance

Now, with full-year results due in two weeks’ time, speculation is that McIlwee has had a bust-up with embattled chief executive Philip Clarke. Someone (his best frenemy) told The Times he has ‘lost confidence in Phil Clarke’s strategy’. It doesn’t help that a few weeks ago, rather than dismissing rumours McIlwee was about to leave, Clarke simply said it was ‘not my job to comment on rumours’. Who needs enemies, eh?

This does rather feel like Tesco is shooting its messenger. In the past, McIlwee has been well respected in City circles, partly for the fact that between 2009 and 2013, he reduced borrowing by £3.6bn.

The supermarket’s problems are many and various – competition from Aldi and Lidl, the ghosts of international expansions past and the price war with its competitors, to name but a few. Now it is running out of people to blame for its troubles.

Mike Coupe, successor to Sainsbury’s boss Justin King: take note…

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