Ex-bosses are playing blame game over Tesco decline
Former Tesco bosses Sir Terry Leahy and Philip Clarke have traded blows over who was to blame for the problems at the business which were to foreshadow its alarming decline in fortunes.
Sir Terry, who ran Britain's biggest supermarket for 14 years to 2011 - quadrupling annual profits - accused Mr Clarke of a "failure of leadership".
But Mr Clarke, while acknowledging the "unprecedented success" under his predecessor, said "critical challenges" had been building up when he took over.
He was shown the exit last summer after overseeing sliding sales and a series of profit warnings that contributed to a dramatic fall in the share price.
Mr Clarke was replaced by Dave Lewis, who earlier this month announced a dramatic shake-up including the closure of dozens of stores, the mothballing of others that were planned, and the sell-off of peripheral businesses.
Sir Terry told the BBC's Panorama Trouble at Tesco programme last night that all of the major supermarkets had struggled to some extent during the recession but that it seemed "to have hit Tesco the hardest".
He added: "I think the culture did change under Phil Clarke and not for the better. I think if you talked to people who knew Tesco, worked in Tesco when I was there, actually the culture was pretty positive and it has to be."
He said it was "very damaging" for Tesco to have lost the trust of customers that it would deliver the best price.
Mr Clarke told Panorama: "It was plainly the case when I took over Tesco in March 2011 that it faced a number of critical challenges which had been building for some time.
"It was recognised that this involved achieving cultural changes as well as business ones in order to move the business forward."