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Ex-John Lewis chairman: Possible sale to an outside investor could kill off the ‘spirit’ of the retailer

John Lewis

John Lewis boss Dame Sharon White has come under fire by former chairman Sir Stuart Hampson over the possible sale of a stake to an outside investor, branding the move as “highly undesirable”.

According to the former chairman, the proposal which has been launched to raise as much as £2 billion, could kill off the “spirit” of the retailer’s partnership model.

This comes as John Lewis Partnership recently announced it was in the early stages of exploring the sale of a minority stake in the business, which could result in the company no longer operating under its 100% employee-owned business model.

Hampson who was appointed chairman in 1993, added that John Lewis is a “different kind of business”, where services are better due to the person behind the counter being the owner.

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He told The Sunday Times, selling to a minority stake, for the first time in its 159-year history, would be “very inappropriate”

“Once you sell a share of the partnership to somebody, they can sell it to somebody else… it would be highly undesirable,” he said.

Hampson added that bringing in an external shareholder will result in “everybody contributing their ideas and enthusiasm to pay off profits towards a third party.”

However, John Lewis said nothing is happening in the short term, despite reviewing the future funding needs of its partnership.

This comes as the newly appointed CEO of John Lewis, Nish Kankiwala, recently told staff that the partnership must reform its business model “at pace”.

“The way the partnership did business would have to change to make it more efficient and affordable, and that action would have to come at pace,” he said.

Kankiwala, the former CEO of Hovis, was brought into the newly created position of CEO last month to help the retailer “thrive for another century” after it recently reported losses of £78 million.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

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