Chairing Tesco could well be a poisoned chalice given the supermarket’s struggles over the last few years, but there is no doubt the role is lip smackingly tempting for an experienced businessperson searching for a big challenge. And it looks like Britain’s biggest retailer is edging closer to reeling a catch in: Dixons Carphone’s deputy chairman John Allan.
The former Dixons chairman is reportedly the last man standing in the race to replace Sir Richard Broadbent, who fell on his sword in October after being forced to admit a £263m profits overstatement had passed right under his nose. Recently departed Kingfisher chief executive Sir Ian Cheshire was apparently the other frontrunner, but pulled out last week to focus on nabbing another CEO role, according to the FT.
Allan has yet to win the Tesco board’s backing, so may yet fall at the final hurdle. But what does look certain is the supermarket is after a retail veteran to soothe investors worried about chief exec Dave Lewis’ lack of experience running a shop.
The Dixons Carphone deputy chair definitely fits that bill: way back in the 70s and 80s he was a director at supermarket Fine Fare Retail, which was later bought by Somerfield. After stints at conglomerate BET (bought by Rentokil) and logistics companies Exel and DHL, he chaired Dixons from 2009 onwards during its turnaround period.
Allan is also chair of homebuilder Barratts and payments company Worldpay, and a non-executive director of Royal Mail. No doubt some of that CV padding would have to go to make room for Tesco.
It looks like the pieces are finally falling into place at the very top of the supermarket, as Lewis stamps his authority. Last week, the company confirmed 43 store closures (unsurprisingly not how many of the 2,000 staff are actually losing their jobs, though) and reports surfaced it was on the look out for a new corporate finance boss – a sign more assets are going to be put up for sale.
Meanwhile, more senior managers are getting axed or demoted in the next couple of weeks, according to the FT. And big-time strategy consultants BCG are reportedly leading an enormous cull of the 90,000 odd products on Tesco’s shelves. Clearly, the tanker can’t be turned around overnight, but having a new chairman watching over Lewis’ shoulder would surely help steady the ship.