Philip Clarke, who will become only the sixth Tesco chief executive in the company’s 80-year history when he takes the helm next year, has been picked to succeed Sir Terry Leahy for his “wide experience, drive and energy”.

Clarke, a Liverpudlian like his predecessor, first joined Tesco as a shelf stacker in 1974 while he was at school. Then, after leaving Liverpool University, he rejoined as a graduate trainee, moved through the ranks and is now international and IT director.

While he has been out of the limelight for the past six years developing the international business, Tesco chairman David Reid said his “wide experience of the UK and international singled him out, as well as his drive and energy”.

Clarke, 50, is understood to have won a closely fought contest internally for the role. While some commentators thought that Tesco would skip a generation when appointing its next chief executive, as Leahy was 40 when he took over, Leahy said: “I doubt someone of my age when I started would now have the experience to run such a big company.”

Credit Suisse analyst Andrew Kasoulis pointed out that Clarke still has up to 10 years as chief executive “and that’s longer than most stints”. Evolution Securities analyst Dave McCarthy said: “Phil was the front-runner for the job and has proved himself more than capable in many areas. He’s ambitious, driven, has an eye for detail and is a good choice, but has a very tough act to follow.”

One former Tesco director said Clarke is “cut from the same cloth” as Leahy in that “he is typical Tesco style”. He said: “He’s aggressive and tough but he’s more of a down and dirty retailer rather than a big intellect like Leahy.” Another former colleague said Clarke “doesn’t suffer fools gladly” but is more sociable than Leahy, and more of an operator.

Clarke, a married father of two who supports Liverpool - unlike Leahy who is an Everton fan - is an “excellent successor”, said Shore Capital analyst Clive Black, adding: “Leahy’s “intellect, insights, vision and experience will be missed.”

Philip Clarke CV

  • Becomes chief executive in March 2011, currently international and IT director
  • Started atTesco in 1974
  • when he was at school
  • Read economics at Liverpool University, then rejoined Tesco and worked as a store manager, buyer and marketer
  • Joined the board 12 years ago with responsibility for supply chain, then IT a year later
  • In January 2004 he took over international and retained IT
  • Likes horse riding and sailing

Tesco’s Top Team

Tim Mason, 52

Current role Fresh & Easy chief executive, in US

New role deputy chief executive

Joined Tesco 1982

Best known for helping Leahy devise ‘Every little helps’ slogan

Also known for being the son-in-law of Leahy’s predecessor, Lord MacLaurin

David Potts, 53

Current role UK retail and logistics director; responsibility for Ireland

New role chief executive of the Asian business

Joined Tesco 1973

Best known for integrating Tesco in Ireland

Also known for at 23, becoming the retailer’s youngest store manager

Richard Brasher, 49

Current role commercial director

New role chief executive of the UK business; responsibility for Ireland

Joined Tesco 1986

Best known for development of Clubcard scheme and data insight

Also known for transforming non-food operations

Lucy Neville-Rolfe, 57

Current role corporate and legal affairs director - retains same role

Joined Tesco 1997

Previous career history former civil servant

Best known for heading off Competition Commission inquiries

Laurie McIlwee, 48

Current role finance director - retains same role

Joined Tesco 2000

Best known for moving the back office functions to Bangalore, saving an estimated £75m over five years

Also known for using Manchester Ship Canal to move alcohol in 2007

Andrew Higginson, 52

Current role chief executive of retail services - retains same role

Joined Tesco 1997

Best known for buyout of RBS’s 50% stake in Tesco Personal Finance

Also known for being a well-rounded financial director