John Lewis ‘may end 100% staff ownership’ after 70 years
The John Lewis Partnership is exploring a plan to change its staff-owned model as a way of attracting investment, it has been reported.
The retail giant – which runs the department store chain and the Waitrose supermarket arm – last week cautioned over potential job cuts as it told staff it will not hand out a bonus for only the second time since 1953 after a hefty loss.
The Sunday Times said it understands chairwoman Dame Sharon White is in the early stages of exploring a plan to change its mutual structure in an attempt to raise between £1-2 billion of new investment.
The sale of a minority stake could require a change to the John Lewis constitution, which would have to be voted on by its partnership council, a group of about 60 staff, the newspaper reported.
Any money raised through selling shares would go into the business, rather than the pockets of staff, the Sunday Times said.
The business was born when John Lewis opened a small draper’s shop on Oxford Street, London, in 1864.
Hi son, John Spedan Lewis, created the partnership more than 70 years ago as an experiment into a better way of doing business by including staff in decision making, the firm’s website says.
The John Lewis Partnership is the UK’s largest employee-owned business with its retail brands – John Lewis and Waitrose – owned in trust by its 80,000 partners.
It has 34 John Lewis shops plus one outlet and 332 Waitrose shops across the UK, along with its retail websites.
In a letter sent to staff last week, Dame Sharon warned of job cuts as part of efforts “to become more efficient and productive”.
The group recorded a £78 million loss before exceptional items for the year to January 28.
It represented a slump from a £181 million profit in the previous year, with John Lewis blaming “inflationary pressures”.
JLP recorded a £234 million pre-tax loss once additional costs such as significant writedowns on retail properties were taken into account.
The update came a day after the group appointed turnaround specialist Nish Kankiwala as its first chief executive, in a shake-up of the leadership structure.
Mr Kankiwala will take up the role on March 27 and will report to chair Dame Sharon.