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Ocado boss quits after ‘extremely challenging’ tenure

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Ocado shares are down 52% since the start of the year, after the company reported a year-on-year drop in revenue (Doug Peters/PA) (PA Archive)
Ocado shares are down 52% since the start of the year, after the company reported a year-on-year drop in revenue (Doug Peters/PA) (PA Archive)

Shares in Ocado dropped 1.7% after the grocery delivery firm announced CEO Melanie Smith would be stepping down at the end of next month.

Deputy CEO Lawrence Hene would be taking over as interim CEO in September until a permanent successor could be found, the company said.

Smith has been CEO since 2019 when the company announced a joint venture with supermarket Marks and Spencer in a £750 million deal which saw Ocado market M&S food online for the first time and deliver M&S products to shoppers’ front doors.

Ocado shares are down 52% since the start of the year, after the company reported a year-on-year drop in revenue as cusomters cut back on home deliveries following the easing of coronavirus restrictions. The company has come under fire for its generous reward packages for its previous CEO and co-founder of the business, Tim Steiner, who received a £54 million bonus in 2020.

In May, almost a third of Ocado shareholders voted against a remuneration package that would see bosses rake in £20 million in pay.

Smith said in a statement she had “established the joint venture as the UK’s best online grocer with outstanding service, introduced M&S Food to online consumers for the first time, and played our part in feeding the nation through the Covid pandemic.”

“After three years now is the right time for me to move on,” she said.

Tim Steiner said: "The last two years have been extremely challenging with a pandemic to contend with affecting the grocery market in ways that we could never have predicted.

“Mel has steered this business through with incredible energy and I would like to thank her for all she has done.”

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