Dave Lewis quits while he’s ahead at Tesco

Tesco CEO Dave Lewis – or “drastic Dave” as he doesn’t like to be known from his days at Unilever – is stepping down after five years. which will lead to some pretty fevered speculation about what he’s to do next.

He is succeeded by Ken Murphy, chief commercial officer at Walgreens Boots Alliance.

At a time when many UK CEOs are under fierce criticism over their huge salaries, even bigger bonuses and (often) worse than acceptable performance, Lewis (below) is still smelling of roses. The only thing he hasn’t managed to do at Tesco is get the share price moving ahead but that’s almost impossible in retail these days.

Fending off Aldi and Lidl (to a degree) and cleaning up Tesco’s sometimes brutal act are fair achievements.

Lewis says: “I believe that the tenure of the chief executive should be a finite one and that now is the right time to pass the baton.

“Our turnround is complete, we have delivered all the metrics we set for ourselves. The leadership team is very strong, our strategy is clear and it is delivering.

“With these firm foundations and a competitive, sustainable growth strategy in place, I have no doubt that Tesco will kick on again under new leadership next year.”

Lewis would have been a strong contender for the CEO job at his old company Unilever had he made his intentions clear sooner. but that’s not his style.

That is to double down on the basics and let the numbers speak for themselves. Which they mostly are doing at Tesco. One reason being his £3.7bn acquisition of wholesaler Booker which blindsided the market and, arguably, the competition authorities.

In terms of advertising Lewis sacked agency Wieden+Kennedy in one of his first actions, moving the business to BBH and his old Unilever mucker Neil Munn. BBH got off to a pretty disastrous start but Lewis stuck with them and the work since has been solid rather than spectacular but probably right for a reviving Tesco.

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