Tesco seeks to bolster its top-tier executives to shore up UK performance

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The Independent Online

Tesco has started the search for a UK commercial director to sort out its stuttering domestic performance, as the grocery giant prepares to face shareholders in Cardiff this week.

The world's third-biggest retailer has hired executive search firm, Zygos, to find the new director who will sit on Tesco's UK board and work closely with the chief executive Philip Clarke.

When Mr Clarke took over the domestic business in March, he said "you can't have two captains in a team". This followed the abrupt departure of former UK chief executive Richard Brasher after 25 years at the company.

Tesco, which has operations in 14 countries, suffered a 1.5 per cent fall in underlying UK sales for the 13 weeks to 26 May – its fourth consecutive quarter of falling like-for-like sales, after January's first profit warning in 20 years.

Zygos is thought to be conducting a global search for the director – arguably the second most important role at Tesco's domestic business, although it is not a main board position. The UK responsibilities are currently split among three commercial directors: Nigel Jones heading up non-food; John Scouler in household goods and packaged food; and Andrew Yaxley in fresh food.

Tesco has a track record of making internal appointments so there is no guarantee that it will hire an outsider. All parties declined to comment.

Despite the Shareholder Spring, Tesco's annual meeting on Friday is likely to be a less stormy affair than in recent years. This is largely because Mr Clarke took responsibility for Tesco's weak UK trading by not accepting his annual bonus, worth £372,000.

The Tesco lifer, who receives an annual salary of £1.1m, was in line to pick up 13.54 per cent of the maximum possible payout but said last month: "I wasn't satisfied with the performance in the UK."

However, Tesco's loss-making US business, Fresh & Easy, is likely to come under the spotlight from shareholders at the meeting after the grocer said last week that it is paying Aeon, the Japanese retailer, £40m to take its struggling business in Japan off its hands.

Ocado, the online grocer, and Carpetright, the home furnishing chain, report interim and final results respectively on Tuesday.