Dave Lewis tells court of tension and disagreement at Tesco at time of his appointment

 
Alys Key
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Dave Lewis gave evidence today at Southwark Crown Court (Source: Getty)

Tesco chief executive Dave Lewis gave evidence in the trial against his former colleagues today, as three former executives faced charges of fraud and false accounting.

Lewis shone a light on the tensions already present at the supermarket when he was appointed in 2014 in proceedings at Southwark Crown Court today.

The former Unilever executive joined the supermarket a month earlier than planned on 1 September 2014, but did not find out about the overstatement of profit expectations until 19 September, the court heard.

Read more: Tesco fraud trial: False accounting practices led staff to quit, court told

This was despite the defendants having opportunities in the weeks beforehand, the court heard. Lewis said he had met with members of staff, including former UK managing Christopher Bush during his first few weeks in the post. Bush is standing trial alongside former finance director Carl Rogberg and former commercial director for food John Scouler.

Prior to receiving an internal document which estimated that profit forecasts had been overstated by as much as £246m, Lewis said he was aware that the business was in a "challenging" position.

Lewis described "tensions" between Tesco and its suppliers, of which he was already aware before taking up his position.

He also revealed that the Tesco board had been at odds with then CEO Philip Clarke over the profit warning which was issued on 29 August 2014. The warning reduced profit expectations from £2.5bn to £2.4bn, but Lewis said that then chairman Sir Richard Broadbent had told him Clarke thought it should be closer to £2.8bn.

The three men on trial are accused of "pulling forward" income in the company's accounts from one period to another to flatter the bottom line. The court has previously heard that their actions "misled" the stock market.

The trial continues.

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