Colin Holmes, a high-flyer at Tesco once tipped for the top job, has quit the grocery giant after 22 years and just one day after it reshuffled its board.
Mr Holmes, Tesco's commercial director of fresh foods who will leave this summer, has become the first high-profile departure at the grocer since Tesco said Philip Clarke, its head of international and IT, would succeed Sir Terry Leahy as chief executive from March next year.
Industry sources said that Mr Holmes had declined Tesco's offer of a bigger role but the grocer declined to comment on this. But it is thought that he decided to resign independently and that he could go down the route of a number of non-executive roles.
In a statement, Mr Holmes said: "I have enjoyed my 22 years at Tesco and I am proud of what the company has achieved. My immediate focus is to smoothly hand over my current responsibilities after which I will be focusing on building a portfolio of business roles." Among other changes, Richard Brasher, Tesco's commercial director, will take on the new role of UK chief executive.