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New Tesco boss Philip Clarke to review loss-making US Fresh & Easy chain

Tesco CEO Sir Terry Leahy, the man who turned the number two supermarket brand in the UK into the third-biggest in the world (or second, depending on what you make of the ever-changing Carrefour) has one possible blot on his record before he retires in favour of international director Philip Clarke.

Fresh & Easy, the California-based convenience chain launched in 2007 is still losing money although Sir Terry, speaking to the Financial Times, remains confident that it will turn round and that successor Clarke will back it.

But intriguingly Clarke, who began his long Tesco career in IT before moving to international, says he’ll make his own mind up. He told the paper: “there is a big shift required if we are not to get to your doomsday scenario and a billion pounds of accumulated losses. Now the plan doesn’t say that, so deliver the plan.”

This is a clear shot across the bows of Fresh & Easy boss Tim Mason, who succeeded Leahy as marketing director and was once tipped as his most likely successor as CEO. Mason remains the second-highest paid executive at the company and Fresh & Easy is the only piece of Tesco’s far-flung empire (which now includes Eastern Europe, Thailand, China, South Korea and Japan with a wholesale business in India) that doesn’t come under Clarke’s remit.

So the potential for disagreement between the two is obvious.

The FT also quotes a former Tesco researcher claiming that Leahy originally planned to open 10,000 covenience stores across the US (as opposed to the few hundred rather expensive ones in California).

Looks like a narrow escape at this stage.

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