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Tesco’s Bob Robbins unexpectedly leaves COO post

Tesco insiders insist that changes had no connection to Robbins’s recent share sale, pointing out that the move was ‘not a demotion’

Tesco has moved Bob Robbins from his role as UK chief operating officer just three weeks after it emerged he sold shares in the retailer ahead of a profit warning that caused the company’s shares to slump.

Robbins will now work directly for group chief executive Philip Clarke “on a number of initiatives”, an internal announcement to Tesco staff revealed, which did not refer to the executive’s sale of 50,000 shares at 404.51p each on 4 January, just a week before Tesco reported its biggest drop in underlying British sales for decades

“As we move closer to the new financial year, I have reflected on the changing needs of the business and I have asked Bob Robbins to change his executive committee accountabilities,” Clarke said in the staff announcement, which has been seen by the Guardian.

Tesco insiders insisted that the changes had no connection to the share sale, pointing out that the Robbins’s move was “not a demotion” and that he would still sit on the group’s executive committee, the most senior internal grouping of executives below the Tesco board. However, it is not clear exactly what Robbins’s new role involves, or the precise motivation behind his sudden need to raise funds last month. Clarke’s internal announcement simply stated: “Bob will work for me on a number of initiatives which will leverage the skill and scale of Tesco and allow even greater investments to be made for customers. He will also continue to play a leading role in the UK Investment Programme and will work in support of Richard Brasher [Tesco's UK chief executive] and the UK team as this programme rolls out over the coming months.”

Robbins will be succeeded as UK chief operating officer by Chris Bush, a Tesco veteran of 29 years and the current boss of the group’s Thailand business. He will be responsible for Tesco’s UK stores, distribution network and leadership. In a statement issued by the retailer, Bush said: “I am very excited to be returning to the UK to support the team with our plans to invest in the UK business for customers and staff”. There was no comment provided from Robbins.

“Last month we set out our determination to invest in the UK business. These changes give the UK board the combined strength of a very experienced leader of change and a talented country CEO who has done an extraordinary job in Thailand,” added Brasher.

John Christie, who has worked for the retailer for 30 years, will succeed Bush in Thailand. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds