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John Lewis chair scrapes by vote of confidence

By Rachel Douglass


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John Lewis Partnership chair Sharon White. Image: JLP

Sharon White, the chairman of John Lewis Partnership, has survived a vote of confidence by the retailer’s Partnership council.

While she initially lost the first non-binding vote addressing the council’s confidence in her position over the last year, she won a majority of the support in the second vote in her approach to the company’s future.

In a statement to the press, Chris Earnshaw, president of the council, said: “Every half year, the chairman attends our Partnership Council to give an update and discuss with councillors the progress of the Partnership. This is central to how we exercise our democratic principles and ownership of the business.

“The council voted in support of the chairman to progress the Partnership in relation to its purpose, principles and rules. The council did not support last year’s performance, in which we reported a full year loss and no Partner Bonus.

“The council, chairman and board will continue to work together to ensure the long-term success of the Partnership and our employee-owned model.”

The council’s meeting followed White’s suggestion earlier this year to sell a stake of the business to an external partner, and therefore no longer be a 100 percent employee-owned firm.

This, combined with declining sales and a lack of bonus, was cause for speculation, putting White under pressure from observers both internally and externally.

Despite the vote of confidence, White and the Partnership’s new CEO, Nish Kankiwala, will continue to face the challenge of improving performance over the coming months.

John Lewis