Tesco has appointed former McKinsey consultant Sergei Spiridonov as its new group strategy director, following the decision of Michael Fleming to take a sabbatical.

Harvard graduate Spiridonov was a principal at McKinsey with a primary focus on the consumer goods sector. Fleming, who took up the role in May last year, had been chief executive of Tesco Japan for three years before the move.

A Tesco spokesman played down reports that Fleming’s departure was a sign of more instability at the Tesco top team, which has seen a string of recent departures.

“We’re an organisation with 500,000 people and lots of senior managers and people do these things,” he said.