He had been head of Tesco’s board since 2015.
Allan “vigorously denied “ three of those claims, but admitted to the other, relating to comments made about a female staff member at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) while he was president of the lobby group. Tesco said Allann “unreservedly apologised” for those comments.
One of the allegations was that he had touched the bottom of a staff member at the Tesco AGM in 2022. Tesco said it “instigated an extensive review of the allegation”, which “has not identified any evidence or complaints in relation to John”.
In his statement upon leaving, which was not part of Tesco’s own announcement of his departure, Allan again denied the claims made against him.
“It is with regret that I am having to prematurely stand down from my position as chair of Tesco Plc following the anonymous and unsubstantiated allegations made against me, as reported by the Guardian,” he said. “These allegations are utterly baseless, as the internal procedures undertaken by Tesco prove.
“Tesco undertook an ‘extensive internal review’ which included inviting Tesco employees and ex-employees to come forward on an anonymous basis if they had concerns about my conduct.
“Tesco also conducted outreach to those who attended the meeting where the incident allegedly happened, and video footage of the meeting has also been reviewed. There is no evidence of any wrongdoing at that time or at any stage of my chairmanship at Tesco and I remain determined to prove my innocence.”
Senior independent director Byron Grote will become interim chair. He said: “John has made a valuable contribution to Tesco during his eight years as Chair. He has successfully led the board through the turnaround and Covid whilst helping to rebuild the business.
“While we have received no complaints about John’s conduct and made no findings of wrongdoing, these allegations risk becoming a distraction to Tesco. On behalf of the board, I thank him for his substantial contribution to the business. We are well advanced in our search for a new Chair and will make an announcement in due course.”
Tesco added that it had already begun succession planning because Allan had been due to step down soon anyway. Stewart Gilliland will lead the process to find his permanent replacement.
Allan was paid £687,000 in fees plus a further £8,000 for expenses last year, during which he attended five of Tesco’s six board meetings, plus a combined 10 meetings of board subcommittees.
He was president of the CBI from 2018 until 2020. The CBI and its leadership have been subject to a number of allegations of misconduct in recent months. Its director general Tony Danker stepped aside in March because of these claims.
Tesco chairs dipped slightly after the announcement, to 267.6p.