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‘John Lewis will always be employee-owned’, boss pledges

John Lewis chair Dame Sharon White

John Lewis Partnership chair Dame Sharon White has vowed that the retailer will “always be employee owned” as she won support from staff at a confidence vote over her leadership.

The move comes after criticism following reports that the parent company of Waitrose, could scrap its current model where 100% of the business is owned by partners and instead bring in outside investment.

Recently, ex-John Lewis chairman Sir Stuart Hampson, stated the possible sale to an outside investor “could kill off the spirit of the retailer”, alongside Queen of the Shops Mary Portas telling bosses at John Lewis and Waitrose that “failure is not an option”

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The group suffered a £234 million loss last year, with partners also missing out on bonuses for the second time in 70 years, and warned of potential job cuts.

“I want to be absolutely categorical. The John Lewis Partnership will always be an employee-owned business,” White said.

“No ifs, no buts – there is absolutely no question of demutualisation.

“Our model is the very reason I joined the partnership because I believe profoundly in an approach of kinder capitalism in the 21st century that demonstrates our ability to combine commercial excellence with social purpose.”

Yesterday (10 May), a two-part vote took place over the leadership and performance of the high street retailer.

As a result, the council voted to support White in continuing her leadership of the group.

Every half year, the chairman attends our partnership council to give an update and discuss with councillors the progress of the partnership.

John Lewis Partnership president Chris Earnshaw added: “This is central to how we exercise our democratic principles and ownership of the business.

“The council voted in support of the chairman to progress the partnership in relation to its purpose, principles and rules.” The council did not support last year’s performance, in which we reported a full-year loss and no partner bonus.

“The council, chairman and board will continue to work together to ensure the long-term success of the partnership and our employee-owned model,” he concluded.

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