Tuesday 25 October 2016

Newsmaker: Dave Lewis, Tesco CEO

Published 18/05/2015 | 02:30

Dave Lewis, Tesco CEO
Dave Lewis, Tesco CEO

Dave Lewis has a big task on his hands.

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The accounting scandal exposed at the country's second biggest grocer last September, only weeks after his appointment, has seen its share price plummet and prompted a fraud investigation in the UK.

The company had overstated profits for the first half of 2014 by £250m (€346m) as a result of incorrectly booking payments from suppliers, a figure it later raised to £263m.

The scandal led to the suspension, then exit, of several senior executives, and sparked investigations by several watchdogs, including Britain's Serious Fraud Office.

Its exposure prompted Tesco to bring in Lewis, whose predecessor Philip Clarke stepped down before the scandal broke, a month before he was scheduled to start.

Divorced dad-of-two Lewis became the first outsider to take charge since founder Jack Cohen began selling groceries on an east London market stall in 1919.

He spent most of his career at Unilever before moving to the supermarket company. He is the man behind some of the UK's best-known personal care brands, including Dove.

He was well known to the senior team at Tesco because Unilever was one of the retailer's main suppliers.

Lewis (50) studied at Nottingham Trent University before joining Unilever in 1987 as a graduate trainee and had an early success with the launch of Dove.

He rapidly moved up the ranks, with stints in Latin America, Indonesia and central Europe, completing an elite management course at Harvard University along the way.

In 2005, he returned to Britain to run the UK and Ireland business, where he was in charge of brands including Knorr stock cubes, Pot Noodle and Wall's ice-cream before taking charge of the global personal care business.

He gained a reputation as a turnaround specialist and the nickname "Drastic Dave" for cutting jobs and reducing the number of products the company made from 1,600 to 400.

He has refused to blame Tesco's previous management for the retailer's woes. In April, the company posted the worst annual loss in its 96-year history after writing down the value of its stores by around €6bn.

The group also lost the top spot in the Irish grocery wars this year, to Musgrave-owned Supervalu.

Irish Independent

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