Majestic Wine has said that its long-serving chief executive, Steve Lewis, has stepped down with immediate effect as the UK retailer enters a ‘crucial stage of its development’.

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Majestic said today (19 February) that Lewis has also retired from its board of directors and finance director Nigel Alldritt will be interim chief executive until a permanent replacement is found.

Since taking the helm in 2008, Lewis has made Majestic a success story of the UK wine retail sector, while rivals such as Oddbins and Threshers fell into financial difficulties.

Lewis’ departure follows a Christmas trading period that Majestic described in January as ‘challenging’. Sales still rose by 1%, excluding new stores, for the 10 weeks to 5 January, but Majestic was forced to cut prices to compete with supermarkets, including new wine ranges from discounters Aldi and Lidl.

Majestic said today that the departure of Lewis was related to its future plans, rather than past performance.

‘Majestic Wine is entering a crucial stage of its development during which the business intends to further capitalise on its core strengths; a nationwide store and distribution network, diverse and interesting product choice and exceptional customer service,’ the company said.

‘This busy next phase will require leadership, commitment and continuity, and with Steve Lewis having already served 29 years in the business, 16 years on the board and six years as chief executive, the board has decided that now is the best time to clarify the timing of his succession.’

Majestic chairman Phil Wrigley added that Lewis ‘leaves the business today in good shape, with sales up 41% and profit up 42% during his time as chief executive’.

Lewis said, ‘The business is entering a busy and exciting next phase and now is the right time to hand over to a new leader.’

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Written by Chris Mercer