Tesco chair John Allan is to leave next month after the supermarket giant said allegations over his personal conduct “risk becoming a distraction” to the chain.
The UK’s largest retailer said he would be “stepping down” from his role as chair of the board and as a director at the company’s AGM on 16 June.
His tenure at Tesco, which began in 2015, was due to end shortly – but the decision meant a succession process was unable to be completed in time.
Tesco said Byron Grote, currently a senior independent director, would take over as chair until the appointment of a permanent replacement.
Its statement went on to detail claims about Mr Allan’s behaviour which emerged after the CBI business lobby group, for which he was previously president and vice president, became mired in scandal relating to sexual misconduct.
The Guardian newspaper previously reported allegations that he touched the bottoms of two members of staff.
The first claim related to the CBI in 2019 and the second to Tesco’s annual shareholder meeting last year.
“In recent weeks, four allegations have been made in the media in relation to John’s personal conduct,” Tesco said.
“Three of these allegations are vigorously denied by John, for the other, John unreservedly apologised for the comment he made.
“One of the allegations related to the Tesco AGM in 2022. In response, Tesco immediately instigated an extensive review of the allegation.
“This has involved an internal communication to colleagues inviting them to come forward if they had concerns regarding any conduct issues and specifically at the Tesco 2022 AGM.
“Tesco attendees at the meeting have been further contacted, including colleagues who have since left the company.
“Available video footage of the meeting has been reviewed, as have internal complaints records, including from the company’s confidential whistleblowing service.
“The scope of the review has been considered by external legal counsel, who advised that the steps were reasonable and appropriate in the circumstances.
“This review has not identified any evidence or complaints in relation to John at the Tesco 2022 AGM or at all in his tenure as Tesco chair.”
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But Mr Grote added: “While we have received no complaints about John’s conduct and made no findings of wrongdoing, these allegations risk becoming a distraction to Tesco.
“On behalf of the board, I thank him for his substantial contribution to the business. We are well advanced in our search for a new chair and will make an announcement in due course.”
No statement on behalf of Mr Allan was contained in Tesco’s announcement but he later said: “It is with regret that I am having to prematurely stand down from my position as chair of Tesco Plc following the anonymous and unsubstantiated allegations made against me, as reported by The Guardian.
“These allegations are utterly baseless, as the internal procedures undertaken by Tesco prove.”
City of London Police are investigating several allegations relating to the conduct of personnel at the CBI and a number of staff have been dismissed by the body.
The lobby group paused its activities last month following a backlash from its membership and the political class.
It is planning to outline further culture reforms next month.
The CBI appointed, this week, a chief people officer to bolster its HR processes.
Its director general, Rain Newton-Smith, told Sky News this week she remained confident it could win back trust, arguing that business needed its voice and expertise in troubled times for the UK economy.