The new man at Tesco: 'Drastic' Dave Lewis is a bloke with a marathon ahead


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The Independent Online

“Andy”, “Mike”, “Phil”. Supermarkets like to hire dependable, blokey bosses with dependable, blokey names.

Now that trio (respectively, Clarke, Coupe and Clarke again at Asda, Sainsbury and Tesco) are to be joined by “Dave”.

Dave Lewis arrives in October with the immense task of turning round a global business that has been underperforming for years, with possibly decades of scrimping on stores in the UK needing to be unwound.

The marathon runner will need to strain every sinew if he is to make a significant impact on a business with the wrong stores, in the wrong places, in the wrong economic environment.

Mr Lewis, 49, has faced big challenges before. At Unilever, where he worked since leaving Trent Polytechnic in 1987, he has turned around several big businesses – sometimes ruthlessly enough to earn him the soubriquet “Drastic Dave”.

He has also been posted around the world at the consumer goods giant where he ran such brands as Pot Noodle and Cornetto. Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Indonesia all came under his watch during nine years overseas before he returned to run home and personal care brands in the UK.

Whether he can transfer what he has learnt as a marketeer to retailing is not clear. There were many doubters in the City yesterday. Tesco stressed he had worked with it for years as a supplier. But turning around the company is a  far bigger job than that, as Drastic Dave is about to learn.