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Tesco's Philip Clarke, the loneliness of the chief executive

The CEO is having a difficult time.

New Statesman
Philip Clarke, Getty images

 

Philip Clarke took over as chief executive of Tesco in March 2011. At that point, Tesco was still the champion of food retailing in the UK, and had been for nearly 20 years. But in Christmas 2011, Tesco recieved the worst trading figures in decades.

According to Philip Clarke, it wasn't his fault. In fact, Tesco had been doing badly for some time. As he told the FT on Wednesday:

For five years we had underperformed the industry in like-for-like terms..[I was]...looking at colleagues who are running stores, some I have been working with for as much as 20 years, and seeing them unable to do the right things for customers, because they didn’t have the [staff] hours that they needed. 

This is at odds, though, with Mr Clarke's statement in April 2011, in which he said that Tesco's issues were not structural, and he had inherited a fantastic legacy. He explains his change of heart to the FT in rather vague terms:

A year ago I was as clear about the great inheritance as I was about the fact that the UK needed to get back to being strong and growing.

Speaking of the overhaul by which he plans to address Tesco's fall from grace, he said:

You learn of the loneliness of being a chief executive.

 

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