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Ocado Retail CEO Melanie Smith to step down

Lawrence Hene will become temporary CEO while the company commences a search for a permanent new CEO to take Ocado Retail through the next steps of its growth strategy

Ocado Retail has announced that its chief executive, Melanie Smith CBE, will leave the business after three years in the role, effective 31 August 2022.

As part of the transition process, Smith will be handing over to Lawrence Hene on an interim basis, who previously was deputy CEO at Ocado Retail.

Since the creation of the 50/50 joint venture between Ocado Group and M&S in 2019, Hene has remained on its board as a non-executive director.

Ocado Retail will now commence a search for a permanent new CEO to take Ocado Retail through the next steps of its growth strategy for both Ocado Group and Marks and Spencer.

Ocado said that Smith has been “instrumental” in the formation of the joint venture, since it was established in August 2019, “bringing together the strength of M&S’s brand and its leading food quality, with Ocado’s proprietary technology” and customer service.

Smith said: “It has been a privilege to lead the Ocado Retail team over the last three years. In this period, we have successfully 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.”

Tim Steiner, chairman of Ocado Retail, added: “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.”

“We are pleased to confirm that Lawrence Hene will take the role of interim CEO, and I know he will bring his extensive knowledge of Ocado Retail and provide the leadership required in these turbulent market conditions.”

Stuart Machin, CEO of Marks and Spencer, said: “Mel has been fundamental in establishing our joint venture and the successful switchover to M&S supply. I am grateful for the contribution she has made in this early phase. Whilst today’s market conditions are tough for everyone, we believe in the long-term opportunity of our partnership.”

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