Carrefour has poached Tesco high-flyer James McCann as executive director of its flagship French business.

McCann, who will join a newly created group executive board, was made chief executive of Tesco’s Hungarian business in 2006 and was seen as a potential successor to Sir Terry Leahy as boss of the giant British grocer.

He also formerly ran Tesco Malaysia and worked for Sainsbury’s until 2002.

Carrefour said: “James McCann has extensive strategic knowledge of client relationship management, which he acquired during his career at a global retail leader that has made client relationships a key to it success.

“This knowledge will be a valuable asset for Carrefour, and he will also bring his recognised leadership and management skills to Carrefour as the group enters a new stage in its development in France.”

McCann, 40, starts on February 1. Collins Stewart analyst Greg Lawless said McCann was a “great appointment” likely to play a pivotal role in improving Carrefour’s French business. Lawless said: “He’s thorough, he’s a good people person and he’s very driven. He gets things done and that’s just what Carrefour needs.”

Carrefour has also created an executive board that, along with chief executive Lars Olofsson, will develop group strategy and operational goals and oversee execution.

Olofsson said: “In 2010, this reinforced management team will allow us to stay our strategic course and ensure excellence in execution of our transformation plan.”

Carrefour reported a 0.9% rise in group sales in 2009 to euro 96.2bn. In the fourth quarter like-for-likes rose 1% to euro 26bn. Like-for-likes in France were flat in the quarter and down 2.9% in the full year.