Tesco’s grocery trading director Colin Smith has left the retailer to join rival supermarket chain Somerfield.

As revealed by The Grocer on Saturday (January 21), Smith will take up the role of trading and marketing director at Somerfield - a position that has been vacant since Robert Whitbread’s departure in October 2004.

Smith’s role at Tesco has been a mystery since he returned from a fact-finding mission for potential acquisitions in the US last month.

His appointment follows the surprise ousting earlier this month of Somerfield chief executive Steve Back.

Back, who joined Somerfield in 2002 and became chief executive in July 2004, was replaced by former Asda boss Paul Mason.

Smith is the latest senior director to leave Tesco for a rival chain.

Darren Blackhurst, Tesco’s commercial director for Tesco Thailand, joined Asda this month as food trading director.

He is expected to be joined at Asda by Tesco’s operations director Stuart Machin who has been appointed central operations director.