Sharon White - John Lewis Partnership Council, May 23 002

Source: John Lewis Partnership

The vote result is likely to ease pressue on JLP chairman Sharon White

John Lewis’s Partnership Council has lent its support to chairman Sharon White, after voting in favour of her leadership of the mutual.

Following the vote at the partnership’s council meeting on Wednesday, council president Chris Earnshaw said members had voted “in support of the chairman to progress the partnership in relation to its purpose, principles and rules”.

However, “the council did not support last year’s performance, in which we reported a full-year loss and no partner bonus” Earnshaw said.

Although the vote – which happens twice a year as part of the retailer’s democratic process – has no bearing on the position of those in the partnership’s leadership team, there had been added focus on the outcome following the retailer’s disappointing performance over the past year. JLP slumped to a £238m loss in the year to 28 January, meaning it was unable to pay its partner bonus.

Pressure on White increased after a Sunday Times report in March that senior partners were considering selling a stake of the employee-owned business in order to inject new funds was met with public outcry from former directors.

The result is likely to ease the pressure on White, but suggests partners will expect an improvement in the group’s performance ahead of another meeting later this year.

In an address to John Lewis Partners and council members earlier today, White reassured members JLP would “always be an employee-owned business”.

“No ifs, no buts, there is absolutely no question of a demutualisation,” she said.

White said the board could consider external investment if it was unable to fund its plans via its own means, but that any funding had to be consistent with the 1929 and 1950 trust settlements, which gifted the partnership to partners.