Group food sourcing director Matt Simister is set for a dramatic return to Tesco on Monday, following his suspension in September, as CEO Dave Lewis set about building a new leadership team in the wake of the financial scandal this week.
Simister was one of eight executives asked to step aside when an investigation - now in the hands of the SFO - was launched into a £263m profits overstatement.
Lewis said he was “delighted” Simister was returning. “We asked Matt to step aside to facilitate our recent investigation into commercial income recognition,” he explained. “During our work it became clear that Matt, in fact, worked tirelessly to resolve the issues we faced.”
A Tesco source said: “We understand Matt Simister has been completely exonerated by the investigation. It’s all happened very fast over the last few days and, as you can imagine, the atmosphere has been a very strange one in Tesco since all this began.”
Sources at Tesco confirmed UK MD Chris Bush, food commercial director John Scouler, UK finance director Carl Rogberg, and group commercial director Kevin Grace, had left Tesco, with investigations into their roles understood to be ongoing.
The other suspended execs - head of beer, wine and spirits Dan Jago, director of convenience Sean McCurley and impulse category director William Linnane - are not expected to return, added the source.
Under Lewis’s shake-up, Lewis will take on day-to-day running of the UK, with Jason Tarry - formerly head of Tesco’s clothing arm F&F, who has been standing in for Scouler since the scandal broke - appointed head of commercial for the UK and the group.
A senior supplier source described Tarry’s appointment as “inspired”: “He is a top bloke with good experience in Tesco and the grocery business. Those that dismiss him as not having a food background just haven’t done their homework.”
The Tesco source added: “There is a lot of sadness in the company that John has gone because he was very well liked, but Jason is very well respected and has been making sure since he came in that we are driving our plans forward in the run up to Christmas so there’s not been a vacuum. I expect there may be further changes further down the line but now it’s all about landing Christmas.”
Lewis is expected to look outside the company for a full-time UK boss, while former digital boss Robin Terrell, who has stood in as UK MD since September, moves to a new role as head of customer. Chief customer officer Jill Easterbrook will lead “the business transformation programme” and Tesco Bank chief executive Benny Higgins is taking on additional responsibility for group strategy, thought to include a review of potential assets. Lewis also said the new structure meant there were no roles for chief creative officer Matt Atkinson and business planning and strategy director David Hobbs.
The changes to the leadership team take effect from 1 January.