Tesco boss Philip Clarke made “terrible, terrible error” according to predecessor

Tesco accounting

The former chief executive of Tesco and retail veteran Sir Terry Leahy has spoken out against his successor, criticising him for making a “terrible, terrible error”.

In an interview with Retail Week, Leahy attacked Philip Clarke, who ran Tesco from 2011 to 2014, for agreeing with the grocer’s critics instead of trying to fix the retailer’s problems.

“He stood up and actively attacked his own business – the stores are too big, they’re overheating,” he said.

“I mean, for the staff in the business who dedicated their life… to be told after all these years that this business was no good was absolutely flawed.

“They lost confidence. Once the leader of a business attacks his own business, there’s no way back.

“Tesco had always had its critics because it did break down class barriers and there are some people in society who like class barriers.

“You were never going to persuade these people to like Tesco and, fatally, Phil and the new chairman (Sir Richard Broadbent) seemed to think, ‘if we agree with what these people have been saying about us, they’ll like us’.”

During his three-year tenure, Clarke endured various controversies before being forced out and replaced by Tesco’s current boss David Lewis.

These included profit warnings, falling sales, the horsemeat scandal and most notably the £250 million accounting scandal, which saw Tesco endure billions in losses the year following his departure and three former senior figures face criminal charges.

Leahy made similar comments about his successor in 2015, telling BBC’s Panorama that Tesco had lost the trust of millions of customers due to a failure of leadership.

Tesco declined to comment while Clarke could not be reached.

Click here to sign up to Retail Gazette‘s free daily email newsletter