New revelation puts spotlight on former CEO
Tesco was forced to admit last night that ex-finance chief Laurie McIlwee was not involved with the company during recent months when a £250m black hole appeared in its accounts.
The troubled supermarket also confirmed that Philip Clarke, its recently-ousted chief exec, had headed up an internal finance committee since April. The admission suggests that Clarke was largely responsible for Tesco’s accounts during most of the period when the profit over-statement is said to have occurred.
As well as turning the spotlight away from McIlwee and on to Clarke, the group’s statement piles further pressure on chairman Sir Richard Broadbent who three days ago refused to be drawn on whether it had been “days or weeks” since McIlwee had last been involved with the company. Last night’s clarification confirms that it has in fact been five months since McIlwee had “any input to any financial matters”.
Friends of McIlwee have told City A.M. that the former finance chief was seething earlier in the week because he believed that Broadbent’s comments failed to distance him from the recently exposed accounting debacle.
Tesco said at the time of his exit that McIlwee agreed “to remain in his role to ensure a smooth handover” to his successor, easing concerns that the company would be left without a finance director. However, it is understood that Clarke told him he would not be needed at its Cheshunt headquarters.
In a statement last night, Tesco said McIlwee “has in fact not been called upon by Tesco and has not been involved or had any input to any financial matters or held any position of responsibility” since early April.
Shore Capital analyst Clive Black joined a chorus of criticism aimed at the firm’s chairman yesterday, describing Broadbent as “part of the problem, not the solution”.
Meanwhile credit agency S&P followed Moody’s and Fitch by warning that it may downgrade Tesco. And one of the supermarket’s major investors, Blackrock, issued a filing showing it had scaled back its stake in the retailer to below five per cent. Tesco shares are down 15 per cent this week.