When Sir Terry Leahy accused his successor Philip Clarke of “allowing too many experienced leaders to leave Tesco in too short a period” in a recent BBC Panorama interview, he didn’t mention names, but among the first on the list would surely have been his retail and logistics director David Potts.
It’s no secret Potts didn’t get on with Clarke. Clarke felt threatened by Potts and packed him off to run Tesco Asia. Not surprisingly, he quit (after just nine months), and has been kicking his heels ever since as a consultant.
“I first picked out Potts as the next chief executive of Morrisons in mid February… 2014”
Potts was a talent Tesco could ill afford to lose. Particularly in the UK. And it’s no surprise to us he’s returned to the industry in a senior role, as the new CEO of Morrisons.
I first picked out Potts as the next chief executive of Morrisons in this column in mid February… 2014. Once his old Tesco pal Andy Higginson returned to Morrisons as its chairman last summer, Potts’ appointment was a formality, whatever Higginson says of the process.
Now, with Trevor Strain as finance director, the executive team is starting to look like a mini Tesco. And several investors have expressed concern at the implications, prompting Higginson to stress that, far from recreating Tesco in miniature, he wanted Potts to return Morrisons to its roots, to focus on the basics, and recreate the glory days through hard work and improved store standards in its supermarkets.
It’s also significant that in a January interview with The Sunday Times, Higginson admitted Tesco admired the vertically integrated supply chain Sir Ken Morrison pioneered, and which is part of the Morrisons DNA.
Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see if Potts brings in any other ex-Tesco executives: whether it’s leaders who were “allowed to leave” by Clarke during his reign of terror, leaders who were booted out following the financial scandal in the autumn, or leaders who have been culled in the recent cost cutting purge, there will be no shortage of talent for Potts to choose from. And, for my next prediction, there will be no shortage of positions at Morrisons that he will want to look at.