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John Lewis chair Sharon White responds to stake sale speculation

By Huw Hughes


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Image: John Lewis

The chair of John Lewis has sent a message to customers following news the company is considering diluting its partnership structure amid continued losses.

In a statement on LinkedIn, Sharon White said it is her responsibility to ensure “the partnership model not only survives, but thrives for another 75 years”.

It follows a report by The Sunday Times this week that the company was considering selling a minority stake, meaning it would no longer be 100 percent owned by its staff.

The move could help the struggling retailer raise between 1 billion pounds and 2 billion pounds, according to the report.

That came after the company reported a widening loss before tax of 234 million pounds in the year to January 28 compared to a loss of 27 million pounds a year earlier.

Total sales for the year dropped 2 percent to 12.25 billion pounds, down 3 percent to 7.31 billion pounds at Waitrose, but up slightly by 0.2 percent to 4.94 billion pounds at John Lewis.

‘Partnership to evolve and change shape'

White said Wednesday: “Being a partnership is what got us through the pandemic. It’s what’s getting us through the biggest cost of living crisis in generations.

“And I’m hugely grateful to our customers, for staying loyal to us. I do not take that for granted.”

She said the partnership has “a rich history of taking bold steps” and has “always been open to new partnerships with investors or like minded companies to support our growth”, citing its partnership with investment fund abrdn as a recent example.

She continued: “In seeking what's best for our business and our partners, if we were to consider working with others that had implications for how we’re set up, we’d of course discuss it with our partners first.

“As chairman, I have the responsibility - and the privilege - of ensuring everything we do is in the best interest of the partnership.

“The partnership will continue to evolve and change shape, as it has since its creation.

“What will remain a constant is our ownership of the business.”

John Lewis
John Lewis Partnership