John Lewis boss ‘doing her best’, says former chairman, after £234m loss

Former John Lewis chairman Sir Charlie Mayfield has thrown his support behind his successor following a tumultuous few days for the retail giant.

Sir Charlie, who stood down from the role in 2000, told Sky News he was confident his replacement Dame Sharon White had been “doing her best in pretty difficult circumstances”.

It comes after John Lewis Partnership, which includes Waitrose and John Lewis shops, last week posted an annual loss of £234m and warned an unspecified number of job cuts were on the cards.

The company is also considering plans to dilute its 100% employee ownership to raise up to £2bn of fresh investment, according to reports.

In an interview with Ian King Live, Sir Charlie said “a lot has happened and a lot has changed” since he left the company, including the pandemic and the cost of living crisis.

But he added: “I’m absolutely sure that my successor is doing the very best with her team to manage that situation in pretty difficult circumstances.”

However Sir Charlie refused to be drawn on suggestions that the partnership might have to bring in an external investor, adding: “I’m not privy to any of these conversations”.

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It comes after Dame Sharon announced plans in December to diversify its business by building 1,000 rental properties on its land, in a joint venture with investment firm abrdn.

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