The John Lewis Partnership has named Sharon White as its new chairman, succeeding Sir Charlie Mayfield.
White, who will take up the role when Sir Mayfield steps down in early 2020, has served as CEO of Ofcom, the UK’s communications services regulator, since March 2015.
Before joining Ofcom, she was second permanent secretary at the Treasury, responsible for overseeing the public finances and before that she held board level positions at the Ministry of Justice and the Department for International Development. She has also worked as an adviser at the Prime Minister’s Policy Unit and in Washington DC as a senior economist at the World Bank.
“Sharon White has had a stellar career in a number of senior strategic and executive roles and during a thorough, wide-ranging and extremely competitive search she stood out, both for me and for the Nominations Committee, as an exceptional candidate. I believe she has the vision, leadership, drive and flair to steer the Partnership through its next phase,” Sir Mayfield said.
“I readily recognise that Sharon is not the conventional retail choice. But these are not conventional retail times, nor is the Partnership a conventional company. Sharon is an inspirational leader with the personal and professional skills to ensure the Partnership continues to innovate and change while at the same time retaining and strengthening our distinctive character and democratic vitality.
“I look forward to welcoming Sharon to the Partnership around the turn of the year and to working with her during a thorough handover. I will step down at a time to be confirmed but likely to be in early 2020, depending on Sharon’s start and a handover period.”
Along with being a non-executive board member of Barratt Developments Plc, the UK FTSE 100 house builder, White is also a Trustee of Sadler’s Wells Trust Ltd. She is a trained economist and studied at Cambridge University and University College London.
“It is a great honour to be asked to succeed Charlie as the sixth chairman of the John Lewis Partnership,” she said.
“I am a passionate believer in the Partnership: Partners working together for each other’s wellbeing with the confidence to invest for the long-term and a focus on delivering for our customers in a rapidly changing retail environment. John Lewis & Partners and Waitrose & Partners are not merely British retail icons, but also a model of a better way to do business.
“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 so much to working with Partners as we move ahead together.”
In its most recent set of full-year results, the John Lewis Partnership’s profits were hit by a continued “challenging” retail market overall. Group profits for the year sank by more than 45% to GBP160m (US$210m).