Stepping down

Dame Sharon not seeking second term at John Lewis

Dame Sharon White: controversial moves (pic: Terry Murden)

John Lewis Partnership chairwoman Dame Sharon White will not seek a second term and has asked the board to start searching for her successor.

A statement released by the retailer stated that Dame Sharon, who was the first woman to lead John Lewis, will step down in February 2025 when her five-year term concludes. She will become the shortest-serving chair in the partnership’s history.

As part of the recruitment process Dame Sharon has asked the board to review the accountabilities of the role “to ensure that these continue to support the successful transformation of the business”.

It appeared from this request that there have been disagreements over the leadership and duties of the chair. Earlier this year, she faced a vote of confidence following a number of controversial proposals, a huge trading loss and the closures of stores, including one in Aberdeen.

It was reported in March that she wanted to dilute the historic employee ownership model by bringing in outside investors to help re-capitalise the business.

The annual staff bonus was scrapped after the business reported a £234 million loss for the year ended 28 January 2023. It was only the second time the partnership had failed to pay the bonus since the scheme began in 1953 – the first being in 2020 during the pandemic.

In a statement today, Dame Sharon said: “Having led the partnership through the pandemic and the worst of the cost of living crisis, it is important that there is now a smooth and orderly succession process and handover.

“The partnership is making progress in its modernisation and transformation with improving results,” she added. “There is a long road ahead and I am committed to handing on the strongest possible partnership to my successor.”

Recently, there were reports that John Lewis was considering the sale and leaseback of a dozen Waitrose stores to raise cash.

John Lewis reported that half-year losses had narrowed to £59 million. However, the retailer also warned that the partnership’s turnaround will take two years longer than planned.

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