Blog: Dean BestIs Leahy Tesco's Finest?

Dean Best | 8 June 2010

"If you had said to people in 1997 that Tesco would be this size, with these products and become this kind of group, most people probably would have said 'Are you having a laugh?'"

The words of one City analyst today (8 June) as he looked back at Sir Terry Leahy's reign at the UK retailer.

That analyst, along with many in the City, took time out today to praise Leahy's record at Tesco, a business he joined in 1979 as a marketing executive and which he took charge of in 1997.

Since then, Tesco has grown from a food retailer focused almost predominantly on the UK market to a company that, domestically, sells clothes, mobile phones and mortgages - and into a global retailer with stores in markets from Turkey to Thailand.

Of course, outside the City, there are those who resent the growth of Tesco under Leahy's stewardship.

Pressure group Friends of the Earth was withering in its assessment of Leahy's reign.

"Sir Terry Leahy may have helped line the pockets of Tesco's shareholders but
British farmers, communities and the environment have all suffered at the hands
of the chain's aggressive expansion," Friends of the Earth's Helen Rimmer said.

Given the fierce debates around the power of supermarkets in the UK and the desire among suppliers for government to establish an ombudsman to oversee the sector, there is likely to be those in our industry who will greet Leahy's departure with some ambivalence.

However, in retail and among those who watch the sector, Leahy has his supporters for the way to he turned Tesco into one of the industry's heavyweights.

Phil Clarke, who joined Tesco straight from school and was most recently head of the retailer's international operations, will take one of the most high-profile jobs in retail and in UK business more widely.

He has some big shoes to fill.


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