As the news breaks that Tesco chief executive Philip Clarke is on his way out, Drapers takes a closer look at his replacement Dave Lewis, head of Unilever’s personal care division, who will take up the post on October 1.
- Lewis joined Unilever in 1987 after completing a BA (Hons) in business studies at Trent Business School, Nottingham,
- He started as a Unilever Companies Management Development Scheme trainee for Lever Brothers in Kingston-upon-Thames.
- During his first nine years at Unilever, he held a variety of UK and European marketing and customer management roles. He became marketing operations manager in 1993.
- In 1996, he moved to South America to become marketing director of Unilever River Plate (Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay).
- In 1999 he became managing director of Unilever Indonesia’s personal care business and regional innovation leader for personal care South East Asia. The business saw an average growth of 30% per year, during his time there.
- Lewis took the advanced management programme at Harvard University and then served as senior vice president for home and personal care, Central and Eastern Europe, for three years, before returning to the UK in 2005 as managing director of Unilever’s UK home and personal care business.
- In 2007, he became chairman of Unilever UK and Ireland, as the company consolidated its three separate operating companies - foods, home and personal care and ice cream - into a single business as part of its One Unilever programme.
- Lewis was appointed president of the Americas in 2010.
- In 2011, he took up his current role as president of Unilever’s personal care division.
What the analysts say:
- Independent analyst Nick Bubb: “Dave Lewis knows nothing about retailing, but maybe that doesn’t matter, because as a leading supplier he certainly knows how to win price wars and perhaps that is the big issue now facing Tesco in the UK.”
- Clive Black, Shore Capital: “We await Mr Lewis’ prognosis for the business, particularly the UK, with considerable interest. We believe that his appointment will be greeted with a great sense of encouragement by a store staff that has been pummelled in recent years so leading to a collapse in morale.”
- Phil Dorrell, Retail Remedy: “Those on the inside at Tesco know that the transition from Leahy to Clarke was anything but smooth, despite the perception that it was. When Clarke took over at Tesco there were all kinds of legacy problems. Those legacy problems are still there and it’s time to see whether Dave Lewis can solve them.”
- Bruno Montenye, Bernstein: “Clearly the talent is there, but will the lack of retail experience be a problem to set a new strategy for a retailer that is having an existential crisis? We prefer giving the benefit of the doubt and look forward to first statements.”