All change at the top of Tesco.com

Laura Wade-Gery, CEO of Tesco.com is leaving Tesco.com to join the newly formed Tesco UK Board of Directors reporting to our forthcoming new Tesco chief Philip Clarke.

Laura’s role is being taken by Ken Towle, currently CEO of Tesco’s China operation. Ken will have the new title ‘Director of Internet Retailing’.

Laura leaves after 7 years leading Tesco.com, but her new role takes her to new heights as Commercial Director for Clothing, Electronics and General Merchandise on the new UK board.

Ken Towle was the person who led us at the origins of Tesco online in the 1990s. When I joined the fledging ‘team of ten’ in early 1995, Ken was project manager for the “see what we can do with this thing called the internet” venture. So he has come full circle (as I reminded him in a congratulatory email I sent earlier today) back to a business several thousand times the size it was under his original leadership.

It is interesting to note that Ken is ‘Director of Internet Retailing’ rather than continuing the ‘CEO’ role. Why? Well Tesco.com was formed as its own limited company (wholly owned by Tesco PLC) so that it could operate with its own autonomy and agile principles. It also protected the ‘mother ship’ by ensuring financial transparency rather than mixing up the accounts. We wanted to show shareholders the added success (or otherwise) that our online operations would bring to the company, and that was best accomplished with our own accounts and structure.

That was a decade ago and something tells me that shareholders regard our online operations today as successful! Now, under Philip Clarke’s leadership, Tesco.com is becoming a more integrated part of Tesco PLC because customers see us as “One Tesco” so we need to ensure we behave that uniform multi-channel way.

Laura is joined on the new UK board by Carolyn Bradley who is Tesco UK Marketing Director. Carolyn led Tesco.com from 1998 through to John Browett’s appointment as the first Tesco.com CEO in 2000 (and continued to work alongside John until 2002). So that’s two Tesco.com alumni on the new UK board.

John Browett handed the reins of Tesco.com to Laura in 2004. Interestingly, John is now CEO of Dixons Group (DSG) and you could argue that Laura is basically doing his present job now in Tesco given that she has the ‘Electricals’ remit and that our business is an order of magnitude bigger than DSG.

More about the Tesco’s new UK board of directors here (Financial Times)

Chris Brocklesby has just joined Tesco.com as our new CIO, replacing JJ VanOosten who has left Tesco to pursue other interests. Chris was UK IT Director for Tesco and brings a wealth of in-depth experience of IT from the ‘mother ship’.

So it’s all change at the top as we gear up for 2011.

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