Tesco is expected to suspend more senior staff as part of its ongoing investigation into a £250m black hole, The Independent has learnt.
Five executives have already been asked to stand aside while an investigation by Deloitte and law firm Freshfields takes place, but sources close to the supermarket say further suspensions are “highly likely”.
It comes as Tesco asked its long-time headhunters Lygon Group to search for new board members after the supermarket was accused of having weak oversight, which led, in part, to the accounting scandal.
Patricia Tehan, a former journalist, is leading the search, with two new non-executives, the former Ikea boss Mikael Ohlsson and Compass’s chief executive Richard Cousins, already appointed. As head of Tesco’s audit committee, Ken Hanna is reported to be most likely non-executive director to leave. Yesterday he was overseas and unavailable for comment.
Several senior executives in Tesco’s UK operations are also thought to be concerned that their overseas counterparts – running the supermarket’s international operation – are considering leaving the group since the investigation is only focused on the UK commercial businesses.
One source said: “Staff are concerned that those overseas don’t want to get tainted with the same brush affecting the UK teams, which could weaken the supermarket even further.”
The investigation is focusing on payments made by suppliers to Tesco which should have been banked at the end of the year, but were instead pushed into the first half to inflate figures by about £250m.
UK boss Chris Bush, commercial director Kevin Grace, UK finance director Carl Rogberg, food commercial director John Scouler and head of sourcing Matt Simister have all been suspended.
A source close to the company said: “We can expect further suspensions. The investigation is looking into several parts of the business and it would be highly likely that more staff will be asked to stand down.”
The Financial Conduct Authority is also running its own investigation into whether there was any wrongdoing and is said to be working closely with Deloitte and Freshfields.
Next week Tesco will unveil its delayed first-half results; however, the full report by investigators is not expected to be completed by then and it could drag on for several months.
Tesco and Lygon Group declined to comment.