John Lewis is not up for sale, says chairman

SIR STUART HAMPSON, the chairman of the UK retailer John Lewis Partnership, has quashed the hopes of the company's 39,000 staff that they could be in line for pounds 100,000 windfalls raised from the sale of the business.

In a defiant article published in John Lewis's company magazine, The Gazette, Sir Stuart says there will be no such sale under his chairmanship. He refers to recent speculation that the business will be floated as the result of "summer madness" and "a rather cruel dream based on false assumptions and raising false expectations".

Responding to pressure from John Lewis staff, who are referred to as "partners" in the department store and Waitrose supermarket group, Sir Stuart said that such a sale was impossible under the partnership's constitution.

"The fact is that the partnership cannot just be cashed in at the whim of one generation of partners," he says.

He said it was a myth that the company is a mutual organisation that belongs to its members in the same way as a building society.

"We talk about the business belonging to partners, but in fact the Partnership is owned in trust by John Lewis Trust Limited." The Trust was set up 70 years ago when John Spedan Lewis, son of the company's founder, handed over his ownership to make all staff beneficiaries in the company's profits.

Sir Stuart himself chairs the body, along with a deputy chairman and three trustees of the constitution, elected each year by the company's general council.

Sir Stuart claims it is untenable for partners to vote for a sell-off through a simple referendum since any break-up would require an Act of Parliament to change the terms of the trust.

"Spedan Lewis recognised human instinct and foresaw that in the future some partners might entertain just the thoughts which are now surfacing," Sir Stuart says.

And he warns: "I would have no hesitation in leading opposition to any action aimed at destroying the partnership and at contrasting the vision and generosity of Spedan Lewis's bequest with the short-sighted greed of carpet-baggers."

Sir Stuart also tries to convince his staff that their hopes of pounds 100,000 a head from the proceeds of a sale would not materialise even if a flotation did.

"Rich pickings might be on the table for lawyers, but for partners, the only certainty would be divisive debate."

John Lewis staff, or partners, will meet next month to debate a rewording of the company's 70-year-old constitution, which the management says will put the document into plain English, but which some see as a way for Sir Stuart and his allies to stop demutualisation. Some employees have also accused their bosses of censorship following their refusal to publish in The Gazette any letters that seek a referendum on the sale of the group.

Yesterday, John Lewis said its department store sales were up 15.3 per cent in the week to 7 August compared to the same week a year earlier.

Analysts put the value of the company at around pounds 3.9bn.

Outlook, page 17

Suggested Topics
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

The benefits of being in Recruitment at SThree...

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: SThree, International Recruitme...

Test Analyst - UAT - Credit Risk

£280 - £300 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Test Analyst, Edinburgh, Credit Ris...

Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little