Private equity giant Clayton, Dubilier & Rice has hired former Tesco boss Sir Dave Lewis as an advisor to help it grow its global retail empire.

Lewis will join CD&R, which acquired Morrisons in October 2021, as an operating advisor and will work on identifying new investment opportunities and supporting existing portfolio companies across Europe.

As well as Morrisons, CD&R owns British forecourt giant MFG and co-owns furniture, home decor and electrical retailer But.

Lewis is currently the chair of consumer health company Haleon, guiding its spin-off from GSK, and also sits on the board of PepsiCo.

From 2014 to 2020 Lewis was CEO of Tesco, where he led the recovery of its strong market position. In addition to substantial operational performance improvement, he oversaw the divestments of businesses in Korea and Thailand and the £3.7bn merger with the UK’s biggest wholesaler, Booker.

He previously spent 28 years at Unilever, rising to president for the Americas and global president for personal care.

“Dave is an exceptional executive and highly respected leader,” said CD&R co-president Dave Novak. “His reputation for innovation, value creation and growth is outstanding. I believe his knowledge and experience, built up over three decades, will be of great value to CD&R funds as we consider new investments and continue to build stronger, more sustainable businesses across Europe.”

CD&R partner Marco Herbst added: “Dave shares our belief in the European consumer. The depth of his operational expertise, combined with the firm’s experience in working collaboratively with management teams and families to build successful businesses will, I believe, be transformative for many of the companies we invest in and grow. We are delighted to welcome him as an operating advisor to CD&R and to work with him in the years to come.”

Lewis said: “I believe the depth of CD&R’s operating and investment expertise across the consumer goods, retail, and other sectors in Europe to be incredibly strong. I look forward to working with CD&R’s investment and operating teams, as well as the management teams of the firm’s portfolio companies to identify investment opportunities, support strong performance and create durable businesses fit for the future.”

Commenting on the appointment, analyst Shore Capital said: “Few, to us, are better placed to add value to deal activities in the consumer arena than Sir Dave Lewis, noting his distinguished career at Unilever.

“Time will tell as to any involvement by the new advisor with troubled Morrisons, but given his distinctive capabilities in manufacturing, noting that Lewis is chair of Haleon and sits on the board of PepsiCo, plus the turnaround he personally engineered at the somewhat larger Tesco, we sense it may be a missed opportunity not to seek his wise counsel.”

Lewis was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in the 2021 New Year’s Honours List in recognition of his contribution to business and the food industry in the UK.

He co-chaired the Consumer, Retail & Life Sciences Business Council, which was established to advise the UK prime minister, and for three months in 2021 he volunteered to help the UK government work through the supply chain challenges the country was facing during the pandemic.