TESCO chief executive Sir Terry Leahy bid farewell yesterday as the chain continued its march into China with a joint venture deal on three malls.
Leahy took the helm of the company in 1992 and has steered it towards significant international growth, particularly in the rapidly expanding Asian market.
His long planned retirement ushers in a new era for Tesco which he leaves as the world’s third largest supermarket chain.
Tesco will hold 50 per cent of the China joint venture alongside a consortium of leading Asian investors including Singapore’s Metro Holdings.
The agreement will cover three shopping malls in Shenyang, Xiamen and Fuzhou, each of which includes a Tesco hypermarket as the tenant which will anchor the project. The project is valued at around £170m with Tesco and the joint venture consortium each investing around £30m.
Tesco currently operates four malls and 93 Tesco hypermarkets in China.
As well as leading Tesco’s move into emerging markets Leahy, 55, drove the company’s move into online groceries.
He also engineered the introduction of the Tesco Finest range which helped to open up the brand to slightly more affluent customers.
Leahy, who had worked briefly stacking shelves and washing floors in the Wandsworth branch of Tesco in his school holidays, excelled at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology where he studied management science.
After being turned down for a marketing executive position at Tesco, he was later recruited and aged 23 became the company’s rising star.
He is replaced by fellow Liverpudlian Philip Clarke, with analysts pointing out that the new boss has a big job on to fill his predecessor’s shoes. Meanwhile, Leahy has said he may look at new projects in Asia, rather than retiring to the golf course or the terraces of his beloved Everton Football Club.
He said “I will be doing some private investment, taking some big shares in small companies.
“These will be in the UK and Asia, and possibly the US.”