Eoin Tonge

Source: M&S

Tonge has been with M&S for just over two years

Marks & Spencer CFO Eoin Tonge is leaving the business to take up a new role as finance director at Associated British Foods.

Tonge, who joined M&S from Greencore just over two years ago, will stay with the business through his notice period, which will include supporting it through its interim results in November.

The retailer said it has now started a new hiring process to appoint a successor. Chairman Archie Norman said that, under Tonge’s financial leadership, M&S had “restored the balance sheet and created a strong platform for the next phase”.

“Eoin has made a great contribution to the transformation of M&S, bringing quality and rigour to the finance function and building a very strong team. Our financial controls, reporting, and financial discipline are in a far stronger place than when he arrived.

“Eoin has been extremely helpful in supporting the Board and seeing through our planned succession to Stuart Machin as CEO and Katie Bickerstaffe as co-CEO. He has been a great colleague; we thank him for his efforts at M&S and wish him well in his new role.”

Tonge stood alongside former CEO Steve Rowe as they spearheaded a major food transformation strategy and its store estate overhaul, which saw many branches close doors all whilst navigating the Covid-19 pandemic. He also helped deliver the Ocado Retail joint venture deal.

Earlier this year, Tonge was tipped to become the retailer’s CEO, alongside frontrunners Machin and Bickerstaffe, after Rowe announced his retirement.

Eventually it was Machin who bagged the top role, with Bickerstaffe made co-CEO. Tonge was promoted to group CFO & chief strategy officer.

“It’s never an easy decision to leave a great business like M&S,” he said. “However, the opportunity has knocked for me to take on a new financial role across a diverse portfolio of businesses.

“Behind every great business there are, of course, great people and I’m incredibly proud of the outstanding team we’ve built. The M&S I leave behind is undoubtedly stronger and more resilient than the M&S I found.”

“My priority now is to ensure a smooth handover to Stuart and Katie and the wider leadership, and I have every confidence that M&S will flourish, as they reposition the business for future growth.”

Tonge, who was previously CFO of Greencore – where he oversaw key strategic changes such as the divestment of its US operations, returning shareholder capital and simplifying the business to focus on its UK market – will join ABF “no later than February 2023”, the multinational food processing and retailing group said.

He will succeed John Bason, who will be retiring as ABF’s finance director after more than 20 years at the company.

“I’m delighted to welcome Eoin to ABF,” said ABF’s CEO George Weston. “His extensive knowledge and experience of both retail and food industries along with his energy and broad understanding of business make him an ideal successor to John as finance director. I am confident he will make a strong contribution to the senior management team and to the business.”

Tonge’s departure from M&S follows a series of leadership changes at the upscale retailer, prompted by former CEO Steve Rowe’s departure.

Shortly after Machin was named new CEO, M&S hired Dan Murphy’s’ Alex Freudmann to become its new Food MD.

Meanwhile, international MD Paul Friston was promoted to the newly created role of M&S Food chief commercial officer to help accelerate the modernisation of its supply chain in order to support the food business’ growth.