Sir Terry Leahy, the legendary former chief executive of Tesco, has given his seal of approval to the supermarket's controversial £3.7bn acquisition of Budgens and Londis owner Booker.
“What I like about it is that it’s a front-foot play,” Leahy said at an event run by software firm Eagle Eye, where he is a director, the Evening Standard reported.
He added: “Clearly the supermarket sector has faced challenges in a long recession. But you can’t just sit there and complain your environment is unsuccessful.”
The former chief executive also praised rival chain Sainsbury’s takeover of Argos as a similarly interesting move, according to the Evening Standard.
The proposed deal received heavy criticism from two of Tesco’s biggest shareholders, Artisan Partners and Schroders, and is being scrutinised by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).
In March of this year, Schroders wrote to Tesco’s chairman, John Allan, urging him to withdraw from the proposed merger.
Sir Terry retired from the supermarket chain in 2011 and has since joined the board of B&M Retail.
Lewis raked in £4.15m in 2016/17 after receiving a smaller annual bonus.
Tesco beat expectations to reveal a £1.28bn profit last year, but agreed a £129m fine with the Serious Fraud Office over a black hole in its 2014 accounts.