Patience Wheatcroft - the human factor

Patience Wheatcroft - the human factor - When Allan Leighton announced that he was leaving Wal-Mart but would not take on another chief executive role, corporate climbers everywhere did a double take. If someone not yet 50 and bursting with management mac

by PATIENCE WHEATCROFT, business and City editor of The Times

When Allan Leighton announced that he was leaving Wal-Mart but would not take on another chief executive role, corporate climbers everywhere did a double take. If someone not yet 50 and bursting with management machismo had decided there was more to life than running the show, perhaps they should re-examine their own ambitions.

Leighton has earned himself a reputation as one of the country's top managers. Although Archie Norman drew up the blueprint for resurrecting Asda, it was Liverpudlian Leighton who saw it through and ensured that the grocer could sell to the Americans from a position of strength.

His success has catapulted him to the top of senior head-hunters' wish lists. It seemed that, once he tired of being Wal-Mart's man in Europe rather than his own man in Leeds, he'd have the pick of the sits vac. But he is opting out.

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