BrandArena: John Lewis appoints first CEO, Announces New Leadership Shakeup

Monday 15 May 2023

John Lewis appoints first CEO, Announces New Leadership Shakeup

For the first time in its 94-year history, John Lewis Partnership has engaged a CEO to help the company survive for another century. Nish Kankiwala, a non-executive director in the partnership for the past two years, is the boss in charge.

He will begin his new position on March 27 and will remain a member of the partnership board. He will report to Sharon White, the chairperson.

Kankiwala's appointment is a bold step by the Partnership, which has been chastised for a lack of retail executives among its top team, which some blame for the Partnership's current issues.

Before joining the Partnership, White worked in the civil service and was the CEO of Ofcom.

“Nish and I will work closely to ensure the partnership thrives for another century. The new structure allows me to focus on the preservation of the partnership model and our distinctive character, on the strategy for the partnership and on our big commercial choices. Nish will draw on his significant transformation experience to drive performance and profitability day to day.” White said. 

Kankiwala's appointment means a change in the leadership of the John Lewis Partnership. Naomi Simcock, the John Lewis retail director who was promoted to fill Wicks' position on an interim basis, and six other executive directors will report to Kankiwala, who will report to White.

Kankiwala has spent the majority of his career in FMCG, starting at Unilever before becoming the president of Burger King's international operations and then becoming the president of Pepsico's soft drinks division in Europe and Africa.

As revenues continue to fall, it's difficult to comprehend why the Partnership hasn't hired a retailer to oversee its comeback.

“They need someone at the helm who understands retail,” said Detail Executive Search managing director Paul Meechan, explaining he was flummoxed by the announcement.

“If you’ve got a business that isn’t doing great in retail, you bring in the best retailer you can afford to get it sorted.”

“With the way retail is right now, to bring yet another person at the top of the business to help manage it through quite possible the most difficult retail period makes absolutely no sense to me.”

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