McIlwee joined Tesco in 2000 as UK finance director after nine years with
PepsiCo, where he served as CFO twice, for Frito-Lay Europe and Walker’s Snack
Foods. He has also been FD for PepsiCo eastern Europe and vice president of
business planning for Frito-Lay International. He became Tesco’s distribution
director in 2005.
McIlwee’s remit as Tesco group FD is slightly slimmed down, as his
predecessor takes responsibility for group strategy with him to his new job as
CEO of Tesco’s new retailing services business, leaving McIlwee free to focus on
cash. In the current economic environment, with the challenges Tesco faces to
prepare its business for a severe slowdown, this makes a lot of sense. But with
his operational experience and perhaps more crucially as Tesco pushes its
Fresh ‘N’ Easy concept across the water, his experience of US business there
is no doubt that McIlwee won’t just be counting beans.
Some reacted with surprise over the appointment of a relative unknown at the
supermarket behemoth. Tesco’s UK FD Eamonn O’Hare was widely expected to be a
shoo-in, while its CEO of convenience operations, Colin Holmes, completed the
final internal triumvirate.
But Financial Director sees McIlwee as a logical appointment for Sir Terry
Leahy’s next right-hand man, given his operational profile and a much-respected
record running finances at both Tesco and PepsiCo. “There were only ever two
serious candidates Laurie and Colin,” a City headhunter tells Financial
Director. “Laurie has this non-finance experience and is already close to Terry
because of that, so it was no surprise that he was selected.”
The headhunter adds that Tesco didn’t want to risk losing another valued
executive from its close-knit management team as it did when its international
FD Liz Doherty left for Sydney, Australia in 2007 to become CFO at the Chep
pallet group, Brambles.
“[McIlwee’s] appointment is a great example of the strong internal talent
coming through the business at every level,” says Sir Terry. Many now think
O’Hare could head for the door after losing out on one of the UK’s top finance
Read Financial Director’s interview with Mcllwee’s predecessor,