The John Lewis Partnership has appointed former Hovis boss Nish Kankiwala as its first ever chief executive.

Under the new leadership structure, the partnership’s executive directors will report into Kankiwala, who will in turn report into chairman Sharon White.

Kankiwala, who has been a non-executive director since April 2021, will take up the CEO role full time from 27 March. 

White said the new structure would allow her to focus on “our big commercial choices, as well as the preservation of the partnership model” and JLP’s strategy.

“I’m delighted that Nish is to be chief executive,” she said. “Since joining the board in 2021, Nish has developed a deep understanding and appreciation of the partnership model and has provided counsel on our transformation. He will be able to supercharge this in his new role while protecting the partnership’s ethos.

“Nish will draw on his significant transformation experience to drive performance and profitability day to day.”

Kankiwala was CEO of Hovis for just over six years before stepping down in September 2022, having previously been chairman since May 2014. It followed a 35-year career in fmcg and retail, including as president of Burger King from 2004 to 2005, and a decade as president for PepsiCo in Europe and Africa. He is also currently non-executive chair of Vibrant Foods.

“It’s a great privilege to be appointed as chief executive following two rewarding years on the partnership’s board as a non-executive director,” said Kankiwala. “I am looking forward to playing an even fuller part in the transformation of the partnership, to be a modern business loved by customers and treasured by our partners.”

Kankiwala’s appointment, which was announced the day before the partnership publishes its annual results for the 2022 financial year, comes after what has been a tough period for JLP. The group – which includes John Lewis and Waitrose – fell to a £99m loss during the first half of the year to July 2022, from a £69m profit the same period previously.

Waitrose has particularly struggled, losing ground to rivals like M&S, as consumers tighten their belts. The high-end grocer achieved 4.7% market share in the 12 weeks to 19 February, according to the latest Kantar data, down from 5.0% in the same period last year.

The appointment follows the departure of John Lewis executive director Pippa Wicks in February