By Nina Trentmann 

Tesco PLC is looking for a new finance chief, a move that comes as the largest U.K. food retailer prepares for a change at the helm later this year.

On Tuesday, the company said longtime Chief Financial Officer Alan Stewart plans to retire on April 30, 2021. His departure would come around six months after a new chief executive, Ken Murphy, takes the reins of the company in October.

Tesco said it would look for a successor to Mr. Stewart both inside and outside the company. The long lead time for the search, a spokeswoman said, is unrelated to the coronavirus upheaval, which has delayed CFO searches at other companies.

Mr. Stewart became CFO in September 2014, and is credited, along with outgoing CEO Dave Lewis, with helping Tesco resolve an accounting scandal that erupted that year. Mr. Stewart also went on to improve the grocer's financial profile as it faced a shifting retail landscape, and more recently, Britain's exit from the European Union in January.

"He has led the corporate restructuring, rebuilt the balance sheet, guided Tesco back to investment grade and played a huge role in the financial transformation of the business in the last six years," Tesco said in a statement on Mr. Stewart's planned departure.

One of his assignments was addressing the accounting scandal, which led to a criminal investigation by U.K. authorities. In September 2014, Tesco flagged issues in its accounting practices that resulted in an overstatement of profit forecasts by about GBP263 million ($330 million). Those practices involved the early booking of commercial income -- or promotional money, discounts and rebates from suppliers -- and delayed booking of costs, according to the company.

Tesco ultimately paid out over GBP200 million to settle the matter.

Mr. Stewart was instrumental repairing some of the damage caused by the accounting scandal, said Russ Mould, investment director at financial services company AJ Bell Ltd.

Tesco's net debt has fallen in recent years, dividends were resumed and planned divestitures, including of its businesses in Thailand and Malaysia, received shareholder approval.

Mr. Lewis, the outgoing chief executive of Tesco, joined the company in September 2014, like Mr. Stewart. Mr. Murphy, his replacement, was most recently chief commercial officer and president of global brands at Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc.

A new CFO will have to address the longer-term effects of coronavirus on the economy and consumer spending habits, Mr. Mould said. In recent weeks, Tesco has reported rising sales, though its U.K. market share has dropped.

Mr. Stewart "will leave the business at an interesting juncture with the company facing lots of challenges and opportunities created by the coronavirus crisis," Mr. Mould said.

Anthony Orunagoriainoff contributed to this article.

Write to Nina Trentmann at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 02, 2020 20:04 ET (00:04 GMT)

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