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
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
health
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Advisor is r...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

SThree: HR Benefits Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum + pro rata: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn