John Lewis and Waitrose owner appoints first group chief executive

Nish Kankiwala to lead staff-owned partnership as it struggles to turn around business amid rising costs

The owner of John Lewis and Waitrose has appointed its first group chief executive as it struggles to turn around the business amid rising costs.

Nish Kankiwala, a former Hovis and Burger King executive who is currently a non-executive director of the John Lewis Partnership, will take up his new role from 27 March.

The appointment comes as the staff-owned partnership is set to announce its second ever full-year loss, with workers expected to miss out on their annual bonus for the second time in three years.

The group is expected to report an annual pre-tax loss before one-offs of about £50m, compared with a profit of £181m last year, largely owing to difficulties at its Waitrose supermarkets.

The boss of its department store chain, Pippa Wicks, left unexpectedly last month to be replaced by the retail director, Naomi Simcock, while the boss of Waitrose, James Bailey, is under pressure after a sales slide at the supermarket chain during the cost of living crisis.

Simcock and Bailey, who until now have reported directly to the partnership’s chair, Sharon White, will now report to Kankiwala, as will five other directors including the finance director, Bérangère Michel, and Zaka Mian, who joined as transformation and technology officer in November. Mian is taking over a chunk of the responsibilities of Andrew Murphy, the chief operating officer, who leaves this summer with no direct replacement.

White said: “Since joining the board in 2021, Nish has developed a deep understanding and appreciation of the partnership model and has provided counsel on our transformation. He will be able to supercharge this in his new role while protecting the partnership’s ethos.

“Nish and I will work closely to ensure the partnership thrives for another century. The new structure allows me to focus on the preservation of the partnership model and our distinctive character, on the strategy for the partnership and our big commercial choices. Nish will draw on his significant transformation experience to drive performance and profitability day to day.”

Kankiwala has experience of working with global brands but, like White, has little direct experience of retail.

Born in Mumbai, India, Kankiwala moved to the UK and went to school in Walthamstow, east London, before studying chemical engineering at University College London. He started his career as a graduate trainee with Unilever, working in the Netherlands, France and the US.

He went on to become president of Pepsico’s soft drinks business in Europe and Africa and then president of Burger King’s international business before taking on the turnaround of Hovis. He was chair of the bread brand from 2014 and then chief executive until he stepped down last year after negotiating a sale to the private equity group Endless in 2020.

Kankiwala joined the John Lewis Partnership board in April 2021.

He said: “I am looking forward to playing an even fuller part in the transformation of the partnership, to be a modern business loved by customers and treasured by our partners.”


Sarah Butler

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Five reasons why John Lewis and Waitrose are having a tough year
Financial woes, cost of living crisis and tougher competition are among problems that have led to expected second ever full-year loss

Sarah Butler

04, Mar, 2023 @8:00 AM

Article image
What has gone wrong at John Lewis and Waitrose – and can they survive?
Sharon White has survived a staff rebellion, but the boss of middle England’s favourite retailer is under pressure to rethink her strategy

Sarah Butler

13, May, 2023 @7:00 AM

Article image
John Lewis and Waitrose owner to cut 1,000 jobs in stores
John Lewis Partnership simplifying store management structures to reduce costs by £300m a year

Sarah Butler

14, Jul, 2021 @3:42 PM

Article image
John Lewis denies Waitrose takeover approach by Amazon
JLP chair rejects reports about internet firm’s attempt to initiate formal talks

Angela Monaghan

06, May, 2018 @1:28 PM

Article image
John Lewis agrees £500m deal with Abrdn to build 1,000 rental homes
Waitrose shops in Bromley and West Ealing will be redeveloped, and vacant warehouse in Reading

Mark Sweney

02, Dec, 2022 @8:41 AM

Article image
John Lewis scraps staff bonus and warns of job cuts after £234m loss
Warning follows group’s second ever full-year loss, and 3% fall in sales at Waitrose

Sarah Butler

16, Mar, 2023 @3:54 PM

Article image
John Lewis and Waitrose owner set to reduce staff bonus
Partnership, which is owned by its staff, is expected to announce annual bonus of between 6% and 7% of salary, down from 10%

Julia Kollewe

05, Mar, 2017 @4:49 PM

Article image
John Lewis: never knowingly understaffed?
Retail partnership’s cull of one in three top managers seems risky, but there could be some easy wins

Nils Pratley

01, Oct, 2019 @6:15 PM

Article image
Waitrose to bring back free hot drinks for loyalty card members
Deal returns amid declining sales at supermarket, as shoppers turn to cheaper rivals during cost of living crisis

Gwyn Topham

16, Oct, 2022 @3:06 PM

Article image
John Lewis may find that cuddly co-investors don’t exist | Nils Pratley
Sharon White, chair of the partnership, is fishing in an extremely small pool if investors must be like-minded

Nils Pratley

22, Mar, 2023 @6:00 AM