By James Davey and Sarah Young
LONDON (Reuters) – Sharon White, the chair of struggling British retailer the John Lewis Partnership, will step down early in 2025, having decided not to seek a second term of office, the company said on Monday, weeks after it warned its turnaround plan would need more time.
White warned last month that her turnaround plan for the company would take two years longer and cost more due to inflationary pressures as the group reported another loss for the most recent six-month period.
White’s departure will make her tenure as chair the shortest in the partnership’s 100-year history.
The employee-owned group, which runs John Lewis department stores and Waitrose supermarkets, said White had asked the partnership’s board to initiate the process to appoint a successor as she entered the latter stages of her five-year term.
White, a former Treasury official and telecoms regulator, took up the job in February 2020, becoming its first female chair. Her term is due to end in February 2025.
“Having led the Partnership through the pandemic and the worst of the cost of living crisis, it is important that there is now a smooth and orderly succession process and handover,” she said.
“The Partnership is making progress in its modernisation and transformation with improving results. There is a long road ahead and I am committed to handing on the strongest possible Partnership to my successor.”
In March, White said the partnership could bring in outside investment for the first time, a proposal that drew criticism, including from British retail consultant and television personality Mary Portas, who accused the group of losing its soul.
In the same month, the partnership named Nish Kankiwala as its chief executive, creating a new role to assist White.
The partnership said Rita Clifton, deputy chairman and chairman of the nominations committee, will oversee the process to appoint a new chair.
As part of this process, White has asked the board to review the accountabilities of the chairman’s role.
(Reporting by James Davey and Sarah Young; editing by Paul Sandle and Bernadette Baum)