Marks & Spencer chief finance officer Alan Stewart has quit to join Tesco in the same role, jumping ship from one struggling British retailer to another.
Just two days after helping M&S chief executive Marc Bolland present first-quarter sales, Mr Stewart has left Britain's biggest clothing retailer to join the world's third-biggest stores group on an increased salary and with a £1.7 million golden hello.
His appointment will be a boost to Tesco chief executive Philip Clarke, who is currently the only executive on the company's board, and who is facing questions over whether he has the right strategy to turn around the 95-year-old group.
“We wanted a candidate who had the right blend of experience, leadership and values to play a leading role in the transformation of Tesco. We have found all three in Alan,” Mr Clarke said.
Mr Stewart abruptly left M&S’ central London headquarters after handing in his notice early Thursday, a source familiar with the situation said. But he was unlikely to start work at Tesco before the end of this year due to a six-month notice period and the triggering of a non-compete clause in his contract, the source said.
Shares in M&S were down 1 per cent at lunchtime after the news was announced, while Tesco’s shares were up 0.5 per cent. Tesco’s shares are hovering near 10-year lows, while M&S’s are down over 40 per cent since their peak in 2007.
Tesco, which has been looking for a new finance chief since Laurie McIlwee announced his intention to quit in April, said Mr Stewart would join “following satisfaction of existing contractual obligations.”
Mr Stewart has held the role at M&S since October 2010 and had responsibility for property added to his role just 11 days ago when Mr Bolland shuffled the remits of his executive team.
Mr Stewart is a former finance director of WH Smith and has also held executive roles at HSBC and Thomas Cook.
He leaves Mr Bolland, who is also battling against tough trading and who was criticised by private shareholders at the firm’s annual investor meeting on Tuesday.
Mr Stewart will see his basic annual salary rise from the £579,000 he was on at M&S to £750,000 at Tesco.
He will also be granted replacement share awards with a value of £1.74 million pounds in lieu of his deferred share awards from M&S that he will forfeit when he joins Tesco.
M&S said Mr Stewart's responsibilities will be carried out on an interim basis by Paul Friston, a former director of financial group control who was recently appointed as executive assistant to Mr Bolland. It said a search for Mr Stewart's successor has started.