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John Lewis and Waitrose owner appoints first group chief executive

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The owner of John Lewis and Waitrose has appointed its first group chief executive as it struggles to turn around the business amid rising costs.Nish Kankiwala, a former Hovis and Burger King executive who is currently a non-executive director of the John Lewis Partnership, will take up his new role from 27 March.The appointment comes as the staff-owned partnership is set to announce its second ever full-year loss, with workers expected to miss out on their annual bonus for the second time in three years.The group is expected to report an annual pre-tax loss before one-offs of about £50m, compared with a profit of £181m last year, largely owing to difficulties at its Waitrose supermarkets.The boss of its department store chain, Pippa Wicks, left unexpectedly last month to be replaced by the retail director, Naomi Simcock, while the boss of Waitrose, James Bailey, is under pressure after a sales slide at the supermarket chain during the cost of living crisis.Simcock and Bailey, who until now have reported directly to the partnership’s chair, Sharon White, will now report to Kankiwala, as will five other directors including the finance director, Bérangère Michel, and Zaka Mian, who joined as transformation and technology officer in November.

Mian is taking over a chunk of the responsibilities of Andrew Murphy, the chief operating officer, who leaves this summer with no direct replacement.White said: “Since joining the board in 2021, Nish has developed a deep understanding and appreciation of the partnership model and has provided counsel on our transformation.

He will be able to supercharge this in his new role while protecting the partnership’s ethos.“Nish and I will work closely to ensure the partnership thrives for

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