Waitrose managing director Steven Esom has left the supermarket group to take up the role of director of food at high street rival Marks & Spencer. The position is thought to be board level with Esom working closely with chief executive Stuart Rose.
Esom’s position at Waitrose equated to chief executive and placed him on the board of parent company John Lewis Partnership. Mark Price, a Partnership veteran of 25 years, will replace Esom on April 30.
Marks & Spencer confirmed the appointment this morning as well as the departure of retail director Anthony Thompson, previously thought to be a possible successor to Rose. Thompson, a former head of Gap Europe, has, like Esom, a strong operational record. He will be replaced by current director of food, Guy Farrant. Meanwhile, marketing director Steven Sharp has also been tasked with leading the "next generation" of store design.
Esom was made managing director in March 2002 after joining the supermarket group as director of buying in 1996. He had spent most of his career working at rival supermarket Sainsbury’s where he reached the position of senior buying manager. He left in 1993 to become buying and merchandising director at Texas Homecare and left a year later to become vice-president of global merchandising to Hilton International.
John Lewis Partnership chairman Charlie Mayfield says Esom played a key role in the growth of Waitrose in the 11 years he was at the Partnership.
His replacement Price started at the Partnership in 1982 as a graduate trainee and has worked at both John Lewis and Waitrose. He spent seven years as director of selling and marketing at the supermarket and was appointed to the Partnership board as managing director of partnership development.
In that role he had responsibility for Greenbee, its financial, leisure and travel services division, and Ocado, the online retailer to Waitrose.