John Lewis names surprise choice Sharon White as CEO

The former Ofcom chief executive takes over from Sir Charlie Mayfield and gains a £990,000 basic salary

John Lewis & Partners has made a surprise selection for its new chairman by hiring former civil servant Sharon White as its CEO.

White, who will step down from her position as chief executive of Ofcom, assumes the role from Sir Charlie Mayfield, who announced in November he would be stepping down in 2020.

The 52-year-old Cambridge-graduate, who trained as an economist, will be responsible for John Lewis’ 400 shops and 83,900 employees, despite no former experience in the retail sector.

Sharon White

She has previously held board level positions at the Ministry of Justice and the Department of International Development, and worked as an advisor at the Prime Minister’s Policy Unit.

“I readily recognise that Sharon is not the conventional retail choice,” said Mayfield.

“But these are not conventional retail times, nor is the Partnership a convention company.”

He went onto praise White for her “inspirational” leadership and her personal and professional skills.

“I look forward to welcoming Sharon to the Partnership around the turn of the year and to working with her during a thorough handover,” he added.

Meanwhile, White said it was a “great honour” to succeed Mayfield as the retailer’s sixth chairman.

“In my current role, my vision has been to ensure that consumers in fast-moving markets get high quality, reliable services at fair prices, from thriving businesses they can trust.

“Social purpose and commercial success flourish best together, which is why I am looking forward [...] to working with Partners as we move ahead together.”

The retailer also confirmed White’s basic pay will start at £990,000.

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