Tesco CEO Terry Leahy to retire in 2011

London Sir Terry Leahy is stepping down as CEO of Tesco next year after 14 years leading the world's third-largest retailer.

The company said Tuesday that Philip Clarke will take the top job after Leahy departs in March 2011. Clarke currently directs Tesco's expanding international operations.

Under Leahy’s tenure, Tesco has grown from the U.K.'s second-biggest supermarket operator to the largest with over 30% market share, and a major international player with operations across central Europe and Asia. It also started a small U.S. operation in 2007 -- Fresh & Easy -- and has 125 convenience stores in California.

"When I became CEO, I had a plan to build Tesco around its customers, to make it number one in the U.K. and to find new long-term growth in non-food, in services and in international expansion," Leahy said. "It has taken 14 years, but that strategy has become a firm reality now and so I feel my work is almost complete.”

Leahy said his departure wouldn't signal a change in strategy, which is centered on entering new products such as financial services and telecommunications in the United Kingdom and new markets abroad, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Following his retirement, Leahy said he will concentrate "mainly on private investment" and will keep a large shareholding in the U.K. supermarket group. "My interests will be around business generally, both here and abroad," he said.

He added that he won't be taking a non-executive position on the Tesco board, but declined to comment on whether he would take on such a role at another company. "It is too early to say," he said.

Clarke joined Tesco's board in 1998. Besides being responsible for the company's international businesses in Asia and Europe, he also heads the group's information-technology operations. Clarke is also a non-executive director at U.K. pub group Whitbread PLC.

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