The chair of British grocery store chain Tesco is stepping down after allegations about his conduct and a comment about a woman’s dress

John Allan, chairman of Tesco Plc, attends a speech by Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party, in the City of London on Feb. 27, 2023.
Jason Alden—Bloomberg/Getty Images

Tesco Plc Chair John Allan is stepping down days after he was linked to a growing scandal at Britain’s premier business lobby group. 

Byron Grote, senior independent director, will stand in as interim chair until a successor is appointed, the UK’s largest grocer said in a statement Friday. Allan’s tenure was due to end shortly, the retailer said, and he will formally step down at the annual meeting on June 16.

The company said that four allegations had been made in relation to Allan’s conduct, in the wake of investigations into the Confederation of British Industry, the business lobby group. 

Three were “vigorously denied” by Allan, the company said, adding that he had “unreservedly apologized” for the other — a comment he made about a woman’s dress at an event in 2019.

One of the allegations related to Tesco’s annual meeting in 2022. The grocer said it carried out an extensive review of the allegation and did not identify any evidence or complaints following the meeting.

Tesco also asked external counsel to consider the scope of its review — which did not identify any evidence or complaints in relation to his tenure as Tesco chair, the company added.

Grote said that while there had been no complaints about Allan’s conduct, and the grocer had not found any wrongdoing, the allegations risked becoming a “distraction to Tesco.”

Allan, who also chairs Barratt Developments Plc, released a separate statement in which he said it was with “regret” that he would “prematurely stand down” from Tesco. He said the allegations, which had been reported in the Guardian, were “utterly baseless.” 

He added: “I remain determined to prove my innocence.” 

The CBI, which Allan led as president from 2018 to 2020, has been rocked by a scandal which saw two women make rape allegations against colleagues. The complaints against Allan were unrelated to these allegations.

Tesco stock was little changed in London trading.

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