John Lewis chair says company will ‘always be employee-owned’

John Lewis chair Sharon White, who has been backed to stay on in the role following a group employee vote, has insisted that the partnership’s mutual ownership structure will remain in place.

In January, John Lewis Partnership, which also owns supermarket chain Waitrose, recorded £234 million in losses.

Although the group accrued £12 billion in revenues, the results prompted John Lewis to axe staff bonuses for only the second time in 70 years of operation.

The results also led to the emergence of reports that a stake in the partnership may be sold to counter John Lewis’ losses and help it raise fresh capital of around £2 billion, for which White received a slew of backlash.

The mutual ownership structure of John Lewis Group has been in place since 1953 and means that the company is 100 per cent owned by its employees.

According to the Guardian, upon facing the bi-annual 60-member John Lewis partnership council – a cohort of employee-elected staff representatives – White said there were “no ifs, no buts” around the mutual ownership structure and that John Lewis would always be employee owned.

As reported by the newspaper, White told employees: “There is absolutely no question of demutualisation.”

She continued: “Our model is the reason I joined the partnership as I believe in a form of kinder capitalism in the 21st century, which demonstrates our ability to combine commercial excellence with social purpose. It’s what makes us special.”

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