John Lewis boss Dame Sharon White to face confidence vote over leadership
The boss of the John Lewis Partnership is set to face a confidence vote on her future after criticism of the leadership of the retail giant.
It comes after Dame Sharon White, chairwoman of the business which runs the department store chain and supermarket arm Waitrose, said the group was considering selling a stake.
However, industry leaders such as Mary Portas criticised the potential move, which would stop the company being entirely owned by its employees.
White has also come under scrutiny after the business said it would not give an annual bonus to staff for only the second time since 1953 and cautioned over potential job cuts in March after falling to a £234 million loss.
The group has looked to diversify its operations, such as expanding into rental flats, as part of a radical strategy to return the business to long-term profitability.
White will provide an update to the John Lewis Partnership council today, a 61-member group of staff elected by its workforce.
The group gathered from Tuesday for a two-day meeting at the Odney Club holiday retreat in Berkshire owned by the business.
John Lewis will host a “holding to account” session at the end of the event, where a debate will take place involving the chairwoman.
A two-part vote will then take place on whether the council has confidence in the progress of the partnership under her and then whether it can support her to move the group forward.
The vote is non-binding but can be influential as the partnership council has separate powers to dismiss the chairwoman “in extremis”, according to the firm’s constitution.
Chris Earnshaw, President of the partnership council, said: “Since 1919, the chairman has held sessions with our council to reflect on the performance of the partnership. This is a routine part of our democratic process.”