Tesco Sidelines Top Marketer As Share Slides
Tesco is poised to sideline its marketing head in a fresh sign of the ongoing management turmoil at Britain's biggest retailer.
Sky News understands that Philip Clarke, Tesco's chief executive, has decided to appoint a new chief marketing officer in place of Matt Atkinson, who has been in the role for just over a year.
The news comes just days after the supermarket group's chief financial officer, Laurie McIlwee, resigned amid a strained relationship with Mr Clarke.
It is unclear whether Mr Atkinson will remain at Tesco in another role or will leave the company. Mr Clarke is understood to have identified a new chief marketing officer to replace him.
The role is particularly influential at Tesco because it has oversight of the company's advertising strategy as well as the Clubcard loyalty scheme, which was a potent tool during its dominance of the 1990s and 2000s in helping to shape promotional activity.
Mr Atkinson was also an important figure in the development and launch last year of the Hudl, a tablet device designed to take on Amazon's Kindle and Apple's iPad.
The decision to sideline Atkinson has emerged as data published on Tuesday by Kantar Worldpanel, a research agency, showed that Tesco's share of UK grocery spending declined from 29.7% in the 12 weeks to March 30, 2013 to 28.6% in the equivalent period this year.
At an investor presentation in February, Tesco said it would reduce capital expenditure to less than £2.5bn annually for the next three years as it cuts its investment in store openings.
Executives say they want to re-establish Tesco as the market leader on price, range, quality and service despite the growing threat from heavy discounters such as Aldi and Lidl.
Mr Clarke's latest change to his team of senior executives may raise further questions about his leadership because he appointed Mr Atkinson to the top marketing role in December 2012.
Mr Atkinson's predecessor, Tim Mason, was one of the architects of the Clubcard scheme, before moving to the US to launch its ultimately failed attempt to break into the grocery market there.
The finance director's departure, meanwhile, leaves Mr Clarke as the only executive director on Tesco's board, and The Sunday Times reported at the weekend that City investors were applying pressure to ensure that Mr McIlwee's successor was capable of replacing the chief executive.
Tesco, which declined to comment, will announce its annual results next week, with profits forecast to fall sharply and the company's share price already at their lowest level for ten years.