One of Tesco’s rising stars announced his resignation yesterday, in the same week that Sir Terry Leahy stepped down and international chief Philip Clarke was named his successor.

Fresh foods chief Colin Holmes, who has been with the company for 22 years, will leave at the end of July. Holmes has long been touted as a potential chief executive, and is thought to have been being groomed to take the top job.

Tesco told the Financial Times that Holmes had resigned in April but his departure was not announced until Wednesday. He was on Tesco’s executive committee.

It is not thought he is defecting to another retailer yet. But his resignation will be a blow to Tesco as it tries to keep up team morale after the appointment of a new chief executive and the restructure of its management board.

It is thought Holmes had been offered the new group commercial role which was outlined in Tesco’s management restructure on Tuesday, but he turned it down. He had been touted to take on the role of UK chief executive, but in the management restructure, his direct boss Richard Brasher, was given that role.

Tesco told the paper: “He has been with us for 22 years and he has decided to take some time out and consider what he wants to do.”