Tesco Makes Shock Raid For M&S Finance Chief
Tesco is poised to make a shock raid on rival Marks & Spencer (M&S) to poach its new finance director in an appointment that will send shockwaves through Britain's retail industry.
Sky News can exclusively reveal that Alan Stewart, who has been M&S's chief finance officer since 2010, is set to defect to Tesco.
Mr Stewart's appointment is close to being finalised and could be announced as soon as Thursday, according to insiders.
M&S is understood not to have a permanent successor lined up, posing a headache for Marc Bolland, its chief executive, who faced restive shareholders at its annual general meeting this week.
Mr Stewart, a former finance director of WHSmith who will also join the board of Diageo, the FTSE-100 drinks giant later this year, will fill a vacancy at Tesco left by Laurie McIlwee, the supermarket chain's long-serving finance chief.
If confirmed, his appointment will be the most high-profile executive switch between two of the UK's leading retailers since Mr Bolland quit Wm Morrison to join M&S in 2010.
It will also represent the latest stage of a sweeping overhaul of the executive management at Tesco, which still possesses a commanding share of the British grocery market.
Its seemingly-unassailable position has, however, begun to look more vulnerable as so-called 'hard discounters' such as Aldi and Lidl have eaten into its market share.
Tesco recently faced pressure from investors at its own AGM following the announcement of sales figures that Philip Clarke, its chief executive, admitted were the worst he had seen in nearly four decades at the company.
Tesco's sales fell by 3.8% in the three months to 24 May on a like-for-like basis, an acceleration of the 3% slide in the previous quarter.
Alongside Wm Morrison, which has also been hit by declining sales and question marks over its strategy, Tesco and M&S are under enormous pressure from the City to convince investors that they have credible plans to improve their fortunes.
M&S is performing strongly in terms of food sales, but this week said that clothing sales had fallen for the 12th consecutive quarter.
Tesco and M&S both declined to comment.