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First female chairman at John Lewis

Radical Partnership make unconventional appointment with ‘inspirational’ leader


IN AN unconventional move, John Lewis have appointed Sharon White as their first female chairman on a £990,000 salary – even though she has no retail experience.

Sharon, who will take over when Sir Charlie Mayfield steps down early next year, is
currently chief executive of communications services regulators Ofcom, and was previously Second Permanent Secretary at The Treasury, responsible for overseeing public finances and also held board-level posts at the Ministry Of Justice and Department For International Development.
“I readily recognise that Sharon is not the conventional retail choice,” Sir Charlie said of his replacement, “but these are not conventional retail times, nor is the Partnership a conventional company.
“Sharon is an inspirational leader with the personal and professional skills to ensure the Partnership continues to innovate and change while at the same time retaining and strengthening our distinctive character and democratic vitality.”
A trained economist who studied at Cambridge University and University College London, Sharon is also a non-executive board member of house-builders Barratt Developments and a trustee of Sadler’s Wells Trust, and has worked as an adviser at the Prime Minister's Policy Unit and in Washington DC as a senior economist at the World Bank.
Sir Charlie added: “She has had a stellar career in a number of senior strategic and executive roles, and during a thorough, wide-ranging and extremely competitive search she stood out, both for me and for the Nominations Committee, as an exceptional candidate.
“I believe she has the vision, leadership, drive and flair to steer the Partnership through their next phase.
“I look forward to welcoming Sharon to the Partnership around the turn of the year and to working with her during a thorough handover. I will step down at a time to be confirmed but likely to be in early 2020, depending on Sharon’s start and a handover period.”
Set to start on a basic salary of £990,000, Sharon said: “It is a great honour to be asked to succeed Charlie as the sixth chairman of the John Lewis Partnership. I’m a passionate believer in the Partnership: Partners working together for each other’s wellbeing with the confidence to invest for the long-term and a focus on delivering for our customers in a rapidly changing retail environment.
“John Lewis & Partners and Waitrose & Partners are not merely British retail icons, but also a model of a better way to do business.
“In my current role, my vision has been to ensure that consumers in fast-moving markets get high quality, reliable services at fair prices, from thriving businesses they can trust. Social purpose and commercial success flourish best together, which is why I’m looking forward so much to working with Partners as we move ahead together.”
Started as a radical idea almost a century ago, the Partnership are the UK’s largest employee-owned company with 83,900 staff across 400 John Lewis and Waitrose shops who are all partners in the business and share in their profits, with a say in how the organisation runs.

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