The Business On... Sara Weller, Board member, Communities and Local Government department

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Part of the Mars mafia?

Yes, quite amazing just how many among the retail A-list have done time at the US confectionery giant. Justin King, the Sainsbury's chief executive, Paul Mason, former chief executive of Somerfield, even Allan Leighton, the former Asda boss and Royal Mail chairman. Now their fellow alumnus Sara Weller, the managing director of Argos, is hoping to succeed where so many business people have failed.

Do tell us?

Ms Weller is joining David Cameron's business mafia, sitting on the new "board" of the Department for Communities and Local Government. She's among a string of new non-executives appointed to help Cameron cut costs. She joins such business luminaries as Andrew Witty, chief executive of the drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline, who goes to the business department, and Sam Laidlaw, the boss of Centrica, parent company of British Gas, who joins the Department for Transport.

Is she any good then?

Well, her public persona is rather formal, although that might go down quite well in Whitehall. Trouble is Argos might need a bit more than formal. Under Ms Weller, profits at the catalogue specialist have begun to slide. Sales have been slipping for quite a while. And with the supermarkets breathing down her neck, you wonder how she'll find the time.

But she works hard, right?

I'll say. She's got teenage kids, but that doesn't stop her getting up at the unholy hour of 5.45am to trek into the office, where she spends the first hour and a half pouring over data. That's the sort of dedication that might come in handy at Whitehall, where the silky smooth Sir Humphreys are adept at hiding the really important stuff amid piles and piles of pointless paper.

A political career beckons then?

Steady on, there. The record of business people in politics is not great. Just ask Mr Leighton's ex-colleague Archie Norman. No, Ms Weller has been talked of as a future boss of Sainsbury's if Mr King goes before the Argos sheen gets too tarnished.