Not much doubt about the story of the week. And in Saturday’s issue of The Grocer, I’ll talk in more detail about the reasons behind the departure of Tesco’s UK CEO, Richard Brasher.
It’s a sad loss to Tesco. His scheduled departure date is July, and doubtless he will be twiddling his thumbs in Tesco’s increasingly crowded ‘special projects’ room for only as long as the lawyers dictate, because it’s such an inglorious and undignified exit for a man of his retail talent, and his enormous contribution to Tesco - the architect of Metro/Express stores; the key to Clubcard and Dunnhumby; the driving force in non-food expansion.
But the biggest curiosity is perhaps around the timing from global CEO Philip Clarke’s point of view. After the Christmas trading results, the worst in 20 years, there had to be a fall guy. And sure enough, with Tesco’s marketing tired and uninspired for too long, marketing director Carolyn Bradley was quickly moved into a new role. But if Brasher had to go, the next logical time to announce his departure was at the April results.
Without this news to package up, there will be little detraction for Clarke from what are likely to be problematic figures. Clearly, Clarke will have paid attention, following an extensive schmoozing of investors and other opinion formers, in the past few weeks; but for the news to be this early in the new financial year is quite difficult. It makes you wonder quite what forced the pace.
The other question mark now over Clarke is the role itself. The devolved UK board made sense. The global CEO post had arguably grown into a job too big even for Sir Terry Leahy. So how permanent is Clarke’s reinstatement? Will the UK board be disbanded? And will that mean more heads roll, as he stamps his authority still further over the £40bn-sales UK operation?
Might he even bring back Noel ‘Bob’ Robbins, his right hand man, who was also moved to a new role working directly with Clarke, following his share sale controversy? Stranger things have happened.