Tesco director of fresh foods Colin Holmes has said his decision to leave the grocer is unconnected with Sir Terry Leahy’s departure and the resulting board shuffle, saying he wanted to “slightly rebalance his work life”.

Holmes, who has been with Tesco for 22 years and will leave at the end of this month, told Retail Week: “I made the decision to leave some time before Terry’s news but it was not announced because we didn’t want anything to interrupt the smooth handover.”

Leahy revealed in June that he is to step down in March next year and international chief Phil Clarke will take over. The board was also shuffled with senior directors being given new responsibilities.

Holmes had previously been touted as a potential successor to Leahy and some thought his decision to leave, revealed two days after Leahy’s announcement, was because of the board shuffle.

Holmes said: “It was a personal decision to leave and rebalance my life. I want to work three or four days a week, rather than the six-day week of a Tesco director, and it is unconnected to Terry’s announcement. I think Phil will make an excellent chief executive.”

Holmes wants to take on some non-executive roles, some chairman roles and venture capital work, to “build a portfolio of business interests”. He will be replaced next month by commercial director for packaged foods Andrew Yaxley.

Holmes said: “I will miss the business but more than anything I will miss the people. It will be a huge change.”