March 15 (Bloomberg) -- Tesco Plc said the head of its biggest unit, Richard Brasher, will step down from the board and leave the company in July after the U.K.’s largest supermarket chain saw market share slide to seven-year low.
Tesco Chief Executive Officer Philip Clarke will assume responsibility for the U.K., the Cheshunt, England-based retailer said in a statement. The unit accounts for 65 percent of sales.
“The U.K. remains Tesco’s biggest challenge and Mr. Clarke’s more direct involvement should reassure shareholders that his focus remains on this key challenge,” JP Morgan Cazenove analyst Matthew Truman said in an e-mail. He has an “overweight” recommendation on the stock.
Tesco shares fell 1 percent to 321.75 pence in London.
Brasher canceled a planned speech today at the Retail Week conference in London, event chairman Declan Curry said. The executive oversaw the failed Big Price Drop campaign that prompted Tesco to say in January that it will miss earnings estimates, sending shares down 16 percent.
The company has promised to boost staff numbers by 20,000 and improve service, stores and fresh food to lure back customers after market share slid below 30 percent.
“I have decided to assume responsibility as the CEO of our U.K. business at this very important time,” Clarke said in the statement. “This greater focus will allow me to oversee the improvements that are so important for customers.”
Brasher, 50, spent 29 years at Tesco after joining from Rank Hovis McDougall Plc in 1983. His roles included store manager and buying positions before becoming U.K. marketing director and later overseeing the non-food commercial and trading activities for three years. He joined the grocer’s board in 2003 and became commercial and trading director. When Clarke took over last March, Brasher was handed the newly-created role of CEO for the U.K. business.
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