Broadbent announced his departure as Tesco chairman this morning in the wake of that even-worse-than-expected profit fall of 92%. Only last week he was quoted as saying that shareholders would have to decide whether he was ‘part of the problem or part of the solution’. It seems they have cast their vote decisively for the former.
Broadbent has been under intense scrutiny ever since the infamous £250m accounting Black Hole - which has now grown to £263m - first broke cover last month. Not only did the hole appear when on his watch, he it was also who hired Philip Clarke as CEO in the first place, hardly a move to endear him to those aforementioned shareholders.
So his leaving was more a question of when than if. But who will replace Broadbent? Chairman of Tesco currently looks like a job both attractive and repellent in equal measure. Here are a few of our thoughts on potential runners and riders.
Despite sharing the same first name as his departing colleague, Cousins seems the most likely candidate at the moment. The chief exec of food service giant Compass is already Tesco’s most recently hired non-executive director, having been appointed to the board earlier this month. Some have speculated that the appointment may even have been made with his prospective chairmanship in mind. But would he want to step down from his £5.5m CEO job at Compass to take on the job?
No discussion of putative supermarket chairmen can leave out Archie Norman, the man who - as Asda CEO, then chairman in the 90s - trained an entire generation of UK retail bosses. Admittedly he has not been striding the aisles for quite a while, but Tesco CEO Dave Lewis has been criticised for lacking retail experience, something which getting Norman aboard would deal with at a stroke. He is currently chairman of ITV, where with CEO Adam Crozier he is credited with having turned the business around. So a new challenge on the scale of Tesco could be timely and tempting.
One of Norman’s Asda protégés, Justin King was feted when he stepped down as boss of Sainsbury’s earlier this year and is probably the most renowned retailer of his generation. Against that is the fact that he is young - 53 - and widely believed to be seeking another executive role rather than a chairmanship. He has also sworn never to work for a rival to Sainsbury’s, which seems to rule him out. But you never know what might happen when the big phone call comes, do you?
Bit of left field choice, but bear with us. While she is best known for her long stint running the National Lottery at Camelot, back in the day Thompson was the marketing director of Woolworth’s and the first female managing director of a UK DIY business. So she knows retail too. She is also renowned as a straight talker and a hard-grafter, both qualities which any Tesco chairman is going to require in abundance.