‘Not the conventional retail choice’: Sharon White to take charge at John Lewis

‘Not the conventional retail choice’: Sharon White to take charge at John Lewis

John Lewis Partnership has pulled off a surprise by announcing Ofcom boss Sharon White as its next Chair.

She will become the only woman to run a British retailer, on a near-£1 million salary. White, who has no retail experience, will take over from Charlie Mayfield in early 2020. Prior to Ofcom, which she joined in 2015, she was Second Permanent Secretary at the Treasury, responsible for overseeing the public finances and has also held Board level positions at the Ministry of Justice and the Department for International Development. She has also worked as an adviser at the Prime Minister's Policy Unit and in Washington DC as a senior economist at the World Bank.

Mayfield says: “Sharon has had a stellar career in a number of senior strategic and executive roles and during a thorough, wide-ranging and extremely competitive search she stood out, both for me and for the Nominations Committee, as an exceptional candidate. I believe she has the vision, leadership, drive and flair to steer the Partnership through its next phase.”

He acknowledges that she is not a conventional retail choice. But insists that “these are not conventional retail times, nor is the Partnership a conventional company. Sharon is an inspirational leader with the personal and professional skills to ensure the Partnership continues to innovate and change while at the same time retaining and strengthening our distinctive character and democratic vitality.”

White will be paid £990,000 in basic salary. Mayfield, who has spent 12 years as Chairman of the group, pulls in £1.1 million. John Lewis has been struggling of late. In March, it said that profits were down 45% at £160 million and it slashed its staff bonus to the lowest level in 66 years. 

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