The John Lewis Partnership has appointed Ofcom boss Sharon White as its new chair.
White will take up the position when Sir Charlie Mayfield steps down in early 2020, though her exact start date is yet to be confirmed.
White has been the boss of the UK communications services regulator Ofcom since March 2015.
Prior to taking on that role, White was second parliamentary secretary at the Treasury, with responsibility for overseeing the public finances.
She has also held board-level positions at the Ministry of Justice and the Department for International Development.
Trained economist White is currently a non-executive on the board of FTSE100 house-builder Barratt Developments and is also a trustee of Sadler’s Wells Trust.
Mayfield said White’s appointment as chair was “not the conventional retail choice” but added “these are not conventional retail times”.
The likes of former Sainsbury’s boss Justin King, ex-WHSmith supremo Kate Swann and John Lewis finance director Patrick Lewis had all been touted as possible successors to Mayfield.
Mayfield said: “Sharon White has had a stellar career in a number of senior strategic and executive roles and during a thorough, wide-ranging and extremely competitive search she stood out, both for me and for the nominations committee, as an exceptional candidate.
“I believe she has the vision, leadership, drive and flair to steer the partnership through its next phase.”
He added: “Sharon is an inspirational leader with the personal and professional skills to ensure the partnership continues to innovate and change while at the same time retaining and strengthening our distinctive character and democratic vitality.”
White, who will be paid a basic salary of £990,000, said: “I am a passionate believer in the partnership: partners working together for each other’s wellbeing with the confidence to invest for the long-term and a focus on delivering for our customers in a rapidly changing retail environment.
“John Lewis & Partners and Waitrose & Partners are not merely British retail icons, but also a model of a better way to do business.
“Social purpose and commercial success flourish best together, which is why I am looking forward so much to working with Partners as we move ahead together.”