Name: Dido Harding
Was: Convenience director at Sainsbury’s
Now: CEO at TalkTalk Group
Career background: Harding held management positions at Thomas Cook, Kingfisher and Woolworths before joining Tesco in 2001. She held several roles there, including commercial director for added value foods, international support director and CEO of Tesco’s development programme. She then moved to Sainsbury’s in 2007 as convenience director, until leaving in 2010.
What is she doing now? Harding joined TalkTalk - the demerged broadband arm of Carphone Warehouse - in March 2010 as CEO. She is also a non-executive director at British Land and a board member at Go On UK.
Achievements in grocery: Harding was considered a rising star at Tesco and her departure in 2007 was seen as a continuation of the ‘Tesco brain drain’, coming at around the same time as three other senior figures. At Sainsbury’s, she spearheaded the retailer’s development of the convenience channel and she was touted as a possible successor to CEO Justin King. When her departure was announced, a source close to Sainsbury’s told The Grocer: “She’s very driven and ambitious. Justin King isn’t going anywhere and his job is the only one she would have wanted.”
Outside work: Harding is a horse racing fan and in 1993 borrowed £7,000 from the bank to buy an Irish thoroughbred horse. Five years later, Cool Dawn won the 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup. She published a book about the experience - Cool Dawn: My National Velvet - a year later.
What next: Harding is a highly-respected CEO and is also well-regarded for her work in encouraging more women to take board-level positions. With an impressive, successful track record in grocery retailing, she’s bound to return to the sector some time in the future.