Tesco Makes Shock Raid For M&S Finance Chief
Tesco has launched a shock raid on rival Marks & Spencer (M&S) to poach its new finance director in an appointment that sent shockwaves through Britain's retail industry.
Britain's biggest retailer confirmed Sky News' exclusive revelation that Alan Stewart, who has been M&S's chief finance officer since 2010, is to join it later this year.
Tesco said Mr Stewart would join at an unspecified date.
He will receive a basic salary of £750,000 as well as £1.737m in share awards to replace options forfeited as a consequence of his departure from M&S.
Mr Stewart's move comes at a critical time for both retailers.
M&S has begun the search for a successor, 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.
His defection is arguably 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 May 24 on a like-for-like basis, an acceleration of the 3% slide in the previous quarter.
Mr Clarke said on Thursday: "When we set out on this search we wanted a candidate who had the right blend of experience, leadership and values to play a leading role in the transformation of Tesco. We have found all three in Alan. I am looking forward to working alongside him and I know Tesco will benefit from the breadth and depth of his experience."
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.
Sources said that Mr Stewart's resignation from M&S had only become clear within the company after Sky News reported the story, and that he was immediately escorted out of the company's headquarters.
In a statement, M&S said: "Marks and Spencer Group plc (M&S) today announces the departure of Alan Stewart, Chief Finance Officer. Alan has stepped down from [the] Board and will leave M&S on a date and on terms to be agreed. The search for his successor is already underway."