The John Lewis Partnership has denied being approached by Amazon with a bid to acquire Waitrose last year.
Reports had suggested a senior Amazon executive contacted a JLP director and attempted to arrange a formal meeting, but the move was “shut down” by the partnership’s board.
The Sunday Times said the bid to open talks was made by Ajay Kavan, vice-president of special projects at Amazon.
Kavan and one of the partnership’s directors held several “enormously informal” conversations about a possible deal last November, and JLP executives aware of Amazon’s interest included Waitrose MD Rob Collins, according to the newspaper.
Patrick Lewis, group finance director, and Paula Nickolds, head of John Lewis department stores, are also reported to have known.
But JLP chairman Sir Charlie Mayfield has denied the report, saying: “These times are ripe for speculation but there has been no approach to the partnership by Amazon regarding Waitrose and nor would I expect there to be.”
The tech giant moved into UK grocery two years ago with the launch of its same-day delivery Amazon Fresh service and last year bought the supermarket chain Whole Foods Market for $13.7bn (£10.7bn).