Incoming Tesco UK chief executive Richard Brasher has drafted in a Tesco lifer to the newly created role of UK chief operating officer.

Bob Robbins, currently development and strategy director in Tesco’s Asian operation, will take up the position on the UK board, another innovation, from March.

Robbins, who has worked for Tesco since 1975, will look after retail operations and logistics for the UK arm. Prior to working in Asia, he was chief executive of central and eastern Europe.

Oriel Securities analyst Jonathan Pritchard said: “The beauty of the Tesco machine is that they will have several people of executive level who have ambition and experience in different regions who can be moved around when roles become available.

“There are probably several more like Robbins in the company, and as they are running big businesses themselves, whether that’s international or a different division, it means they are happy to stay with Tesco as it fulfils their ambitions.”

When Robbins joins the UK arm in March, Tesco will embark on a new era. Chief executive Sir Terry Leahy will retire, succeeded by current international boss Phil Clarke, and Brasher takes over in the newly created position of UK boss.

Leahy’s role was hotly contested by internal candidates including Brasher, but the competitors have been given big roles in the new management structure.

Clarke previously said he would leave Brasher to look after the UK and will be spend about 85 days a year outside the UK as Tesco is a global business. Clarke said then: “He doesn’t want me clod-hopping around. The UK is a very important part of Tesco, it’s where we have the most staff, the most customers, make the most profit, and I won’t be crowding all over him.”

Tesco has also started the search for a chairman to replace David Reid. Reid is not expected to stand down until 2012, allowing him to oversee the transition to Clarke.

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