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Tesco’s Dave Lewis: the first 100 days

December 9, 2014
Borderless Leadership
September 1 – Dave Lewis starts work at Tesco, a month earlier than planned following the group’s third profit warning.
 
The former Unilever executive has never run a shop in his life but is now chief executive of the UK’s largest supermarket. He replaces Tesco lifer Philip Clarke, who was forced out after a profit warning. Lewis, once known as “Drastic Dave”, is welcomed by a plunge in Tesco’s share price, after a large American investor said holding the supermarket’s stock was too risky.
 
September 5 – Less than a week into the job, Lewis reveals that change at the top is inevitable. 
 
There will be [management] change – there has to be – because we don’t want the trend of our business to carry on.”
 
September 22 – Tesco shares slump as it admits that profits were overstated by £250m. Four executives are suspended.
 
The same week, major investor BlackRock reveals it sold down its stake in the supermarket, Standard & Poor’s put its credit rating under review, and the business select committee chairman Adrian Bailey says executives may have to face MPs over its “stratospheric error”.
 
September 23 – Alan Stewart starts as Tesco’s chief finance officer, filling a void that had meant this crucial role had gone unfilled for five months. Stewart had to get permission from his previous employer, M&S to leave two months earlier than planned.
 
October 1 – Dave Lewis launches his “Feet on the Floor” initiative, sending thousands of head office staff, including senior executives, to work in stores for one day a fortnight in stores in the runup to Christmas. The chief executive has embarked on a strategic review of Tesco’s business; expectations are mounting that the Blinkbox video-streaming service will go.
 
October 2 – Legendary investor Warren Buffett says buying shares in Tesco was “a huge mistake”.
 
October 3 – It emerges that Tesco has taken delivery of a new $50m (£31m) Gulfstream G550 corporate jet.
 
October 6 – Tesco recruits Mikael Ohlsson, the former boss of Ikea, and Compass chief executive Richard Cousins as non-executive directors.
 
October 14 – Tesco suspends a further three executives as part of the investigation into the accounting scandal, taking total to eight.
 
October 16 – Warren Buffett sells off more of his Tesco shareholding.
 
October 23 – Tesco publishes its delayed interim results, showing not only that the black hole was bigger than expected, at £263m, but that the accounting errors stretched back at least two years. 
 
Pre tax profits plunged 92% to £112m. 
 
Chairman Sir Richard Broadbent is to resign. 
 
Dave Lewis, who said the group was unable to offer any guidance on full-year profit, gave no hints on his strategy.
 
October 28 – The Serious Fraud Office launches a criminal investigation into accounting irregularities at Tesco, superseding an earlier inquiry by the City regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority.
 
November 27 – It emerges that three senior Tesco executives have left the retailer, in the wake of the accounting scandal. Kevin Grace, group commercial director; Carl Rogberg, the UK finance director; and John Scouler, food commercial director, have all departed according to company insiders, first reported by the Financial Times.
 
The three individuals have not been accused of any wrongdoing.
 
November 28 – Black Friday turned into a disaster for the group as police were called to restore order in at least 16 stores where staff were overwhelmed by bargain-hunting customers. 
 
A senior policeman later referred to the scenes in some of its supermarkets as akin to a mini riot and scolded senior executives, arguing the force’s “scarce resources should not be used to bail out stores when they’ve not planned effectively”.
 
December 1 – It is announced that Dave Lewis will take over the day-to-day running of the embattled supermarket as it heads into the crucial Christmas period, despite previously admitting he had never run a shop in his life.
 
December 4 – It became clear that Tesco’s website was unable to cope with the number of orders placed on Black Friday. Customers complained of long delays on click-and-collect orders or missing out completely because products ordered during the promotional extravaganza had sold out.
 
December 9 – Dave Lewis marks his 100th day in charge with another grim profits warning. 
 
In an unscheduled trading update, Britain’s biggest retailer said trading profit for the current financial year will be no higher than £1.4bn. City analysts had been expecting the company to make between £1.8bn and £2.2bn. A year ago, it made £3.3bn.
 
Source: The Guardian

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