Tesco has rushed in new finance chief Alan Stewart just hours after the supermarket giant was plunged into the gravest crisis in its history when it announced half-year profits were inflated by £250 million in a shock accounting error.
Tesco chief executive Dave Lewis pleaded with Marks & Spencer boss Marc Bolland to let his departing finance head leave before the end of his notice period.
However, the intervention by Lewis raises further questions over chairman Sir Richard Broadbent’s future, as The Independent understands that yesterday was the first time Tesco had approached M&S to ask for Stewart to start early.
This was despite Tesco issuing three profit warnings and comes as Sky News said former finance director Laurie McIlwee was told by former chief executive Phil Clarke he would not be required to attend any of Tesco’s corporate premises.
Broadbent had previously said he was “not prepared to guess” when McIlwee had last been in the office, although a statement in April following the director’s removal said he would “remain in his role to ensure a smooth handover to his successor”.
Stewart’s arrival means Tesco has a proven retailer on its board for the first time since Phil Clarke was unceremoniously dumped in July.
Stewart will receive a £1.7 million golden hello in compensation for lost share options, and will see his basic pay jump 30 per cent to £750,000 compared with his M&S salary.
However, that is 15 per cent down on predecessor McIlwee.
Market share data from Kantar Worldpanel revealed today that Tesco suffered the biggest falls in sales, down 4.5 per cent, of all the main supermarkets on the High Street.
Meanwhile Tesco’s biggest overseas company, Homeplus, is under investigation by authorities in South Korea over suggestions it sold customer details and awarded a competition prize of a BMW to someone known to employees.
A spokesman for Tesco said: “We take the protection of our customers’ data extremely seriously and are co-operating with the investigation.”
In relation to McIlwee’s handover, he added: “We set out in April that until he left the company in October Laurie McIlwee would carry out transition activities and support handover with colleagues.” He could not elaborate on what these activities were.