Former boss: tragedy if John Lewis staff ownership is lost

Former John Lewis boss says it would be a ‘tragedy’ if retailer lost its employee ownership: Andy Street says store owner has ‘let go’ of its soul

A former John Lewis boss has said it would be a ‘tragedy’ if the retailer lost its employee ownership.

Andy Street said the department store owner had ‘let go’ of its soul.

John Lewis is plotting to overhaul its partnership structure, which means it is owned by and run for the benefit of its 74,000 staff, in order to raise up to £2billion in funds.

Forward planning: Chairman Dame Sharon White believes investment is needed to return to a sustainable footing

Chairman Dame Sharon White believes the money is needed to return to a sustainable footing.

But critics say diluting its partnership model would be devastating for staff. Street, who led the retailer from 2007 to 2016, told the BBC yesterday that the group, which also owns Waitrose, was one of the UK’s most ‘valued, loved, and trusted retail brands’. 

It comes as ministers will face pressure this week to back a Bill that could ‘save’ the business.

White’s hands are tied by restrictions on how mutuals can raise capital – meaning John Lewis cannot ask staff for investment. 

A Bill to be tabled on Wednesday by Gareth Thomas, chairman of Parliament’s all-party group on mutuals, would let firms bring in investors without giving up staff ownership rights.