John Lewis Partnership chair Dame Sharon White has said she will always act “in the best interest of the partnership”. 

Dame Sharon White

John Lewis chair White: ‘The partnership will continue to evolve’

She made the comment in the wake of controversy and speculation about the Partnership’s future after it emerged that the retailer could abandon its 100% employee-ownership model and bring in an external minority shareholder.

In a LinkedIn post entitled “A message to our customers”, White paid tribute to the importance of the partnership structure but nevertheless left the door open to change as appropriate. 

White wrote: “When John Spedan Lewis handed over his business to his employees to create a partnership, he described it as a ‘radical experiment’.

“Seventy-five years on and the experiment continues. As chairman, I’m chief trustee of the partnership, responsible for ensuring the Partnership model not only survives but thrives for another 75 years.

“The strength of our brands – John Lewis and Waitrose – isn’t an accident of being a partnership. It is because we are a partnership.”

However, she also wrote: “The partnership has a rich history of taking bold steps… We have always been open to new partnerships with investors or like-minded companies to support our growth.

“A recent example is the partnership with Abrdn, the investment fund, which is investing in our residential property business, which will eventually provide 10,000 rental homes for communities.

“In seeking what’s best for our business and our partners, if we were to consider working with others that had implications for how we’re set up, we’d of course discuss it with our partners first.”

White concluded: “As chairman, I have the responsibility – and the privilege – of ensuring everything we do is in the best interest of the partnership. The partnership will continue to evolve and change shape, as it has since its creation. What will remain a constant is our ownership of the business.”