Ex-Tesco boss says fixing Leahy legacy to take three years

Fri Jun 28, 2013 1:43pm EDT
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By James Davey

LONDON (Reuters) - Tesco's former chairman (TSCO.L: Quote), Ian MacLaurin, attacked the legacy of the retailer's previous chief executive Terry Leahy and told shareholders it could take three years for the world's No. 3 retailer to recover.

The group, which trails France's Carrefour (CARR.PA: Quote) and U.S. group Wal-Mart (WMT.N: Quote) by annual sales, was one of Britain's most consistent performers until a profit warning in January 2012.

Tesco posted its first profit fall in two decades in April this year, wrote down the value of its global operations by $3.5 billion and confirmed plans to exit its loss-making business in the United States, Fresh & Easy, after spending five years trying to crack this market.

MacLaurin joined Tesco in 1973 as a management trainee and chaired the firm from 1985 to 1997, by which time it had overtaken J Sainsbury (SBRY.L: Quote) to become Britain's biggest retailer.

Leahy was chief executive from 1997 to 2011, a period when double-digit profit growth at the retailer was the norm.

MacLaurin told investors at Tesco's annual meeting on Friday that a CEO's performance should be judged both by day-to-day operations and their legacy.

"We're all very sad in this hall to see the legacy that Leahy left," he said.

"It is a very sad situation - your enormous writedowns, (and) the situation in America."   Continued...

Trolleys are stacked outside a Tesco store in Hammersmith, west London October 3, 2012. REUTERS/Paul Hackett