Belfast Telegraph

M&S head of strategy to head up new Ocado venture

Melanie Smith will become chief executive of M&S’s 50/50 venture with Ocado’s UK retail division.

The Ocado / MandS deal has now completed (PA)
The Ocado / MandS deal has now completed (PA)

Ocado and Marks and Spencer have completed their £750 million deal for the high street retailer to buy a 50% stake in the online supermarket’s UK retail business.

The deal will see M&S’s strategy director, Melanie Smith, become chief executive of the new business – Ocado Retail Limited – and current boss Lawrence Hene will return to a “senior role” within the Ocado group, the companies said.

Shareholders in Ocado voted the deal through in May, with the new venture’s board made up of Ocado’s Tim Steiner and Duncan Tatton-Brown, along with M&S chief Steve Rowe and its food boss Stuart Machin.

Melanie Smith will head up the new joint venture – Ocado Retail – having previously been head of strategy at MandS (MandS / PA)

Although the deal is completed, Ocado will not start selling M&S food on its website until September 1 2020, once the current arrangements with Waitrose come to an end.

Tim Steiner, chief executive of Ocado, said: “Ocado Retail’s future, as part of a joint venture with M&S, is full of opportunity.

“The new company will be able to offer customers even greater range, service, quality and value.”

Steve Rowe, chief executive officer at M&S, said: “I have always believed that M&S Food could and should be online. The addition of Ocado to our family of businesses marks M&S’s first truly transformational step in shaping our future as a digital first retailer, as we combine the magic of M&S food with Ocado’s award-winning service to create a new and compelling proposition.”

The deal also officially brings together Ocado chairman Sir Stuart Rose and M&S, where he was chief executive and chairman, back together again.

Independent retail analyst Nick Bubb said: “The only real surprise is the news that the MD Lawrence Hene is not staying with the business and is moving back to Ocado and that the Ocado Retail business will now be run by the M&S strategy director, the ex-McKinsey consultant Melanie Smith.

“No doubt she will have the ear of (M&S chairman) Archie Norman as they prepare to take on next autumn.”