Former Tesco finance chief takes helm at new Giraffe owner

(c) Sky News 2017: <a href="http://news.sky.com/story/former-tesco-finance-chief-takes-helm-at-new-giraffe-owner-10792534">Former Tesco finance chief takes helm at new Giraffe owner</a>
 

A former finance chief of Tesco (Frankfurt: 852647 - news) is taking the helm at some of Britain’s best-known restaurant chains months after being cleared of any involvement in the supermarket giant’s 2014 profit overstatement scandal.

Sky News has learnt that Laurie McIlwee, who quit Tesco in the spring of 2014 after falling out with its then chief executive, has been appointed as executive chairman of the company which owns Ed's Easy Diner, Giraffe and Harry Ramsden's.

Mr McIlwee's role at Boparan Restaurant Group is understood to have been announced internally in the last few days.

It sees Mr McIlwee teaming up with Ranjit Boparan, the wealthy entrepreneur who controls 2 Sisters Food Group, the UK's biggest poultry supplier to major supermarkets.

The appointment also reunites the former Tesco finance director with the Giraffe restaurant chain, which was offloaded by Britain's biggest retailer last year as part of a streamlining effort by Dave Lewis, chief executive.

Mr Boparan bought the chain, which is said to have been poorly managed under Tesco's ownership, along with Ed's Easy Diner, which he snapped up out of administration.

The tycoon also owns London's upmarket Cinnamon Club restaurant as well as the FishWorks chain.

Last month, he appointed Tom Crowley, who ran the Giraffe business, as the boss of the wider restaurant group.

Since leaving Tesco three years ago, Mr McIlwee has undertaken a range of consultancy work for private equity firms, as well as serving as a non-executive director of the logistics firm Eddie Stobart Transport.

Last summer, he was publicly cleared by the Financial Reporting Council (FRC), the accountancy watchdog, of any wrongdoing in relation to the finance and accounting ‎practices of the UK's biggest retailer.

Mr McIlwee, who left the company amid tensions with its then chief executive, Philip Clarke, had never been formally named by the FRC as being under investigation.

The former Tesco finance chief had been absent from the business for more than five months after his resignation when a huge profit overstatement emerged, because Mr Clarke had requested that he should stay away from its head office.

A whistleblower in Tesco's finance department alerted Mr Lewis to apparent irregularities in the way that supplier payments were booked, leading the company to admit that profits had been overstated by at least ‎£263m.

The crisis sparked a criminal probe by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), which remains ongoing, and prompted a far-reaching shake-up under Mr Lewis of the company which had dominated British retailing for two decades.

The FRC's decision to clear Mr McIlwee effectively left him free to rebuild his career, since he was never investigated by the SFO.

A 2 Sisters spokesman declined to comment.

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