Making sense of the past seven days
Congratulations to Sir Terry Leahy, who this week marked his 10th anniversary as Tesco chief executive.

During his tenure, the retailer has gone from strength to strength and is one of the UK's true world-class companies.

But a decade of success has turned the big grocer into a target for increasingly vociferous critics. On Monday, a Channel 4 Dispatches programme - The supermarket that's eating Britain - trotted out many of the usual arguments designed to show that the retailer is powerful and - horror of horrors - it makes big profits and is tax efficient.

Then it emerged that Tesco's£150 million project at Tolworth, Surrey, has been scuppered by local protesters and the locals in Sir Terry's village are campaigning to stop an opening there.

There are certainly criticisms to be made of Tesco, as there are about most companies. But the retailer engaging with its critics and the ultimate judge, the consumer, shows no sign of taking her custom elsewhere.

As Sir Terry looks forward, there is still plenty to go for. The big story yet to unfold is the US. A City analyst who dined with the Tesco boss recently says that the US has the potential to be as big as the whole group is at present.

So, while Sir Terry will have to remain fleet of foot to retain Tesco's place in the hearts of UK shoppers, he will also be determined to make the most of every opportunity he can overseas.

Tesco is a successful international player. Perhaps 10 years from now, it will have genuinely global scale. That would be the best possible evidence to its critics that the company is good for consumers as well as shareholders.

We report in this week's issue on some deep consumer misgivings about what private equity ownership would mean for Sainsbury's.

The uncertainty typifies the bigger arguments that are going on about the role of private equity firms that have made headlines all week.

The retail sector has plenty of experience of the buy-out firms and much of it is good. It was noticeable that, as Permira went on the offensive this morning to win over hearts and minds, New Look was cited as an example of the merits of private equity. Under its backers, the retailer has been adding space and jobs and, on its latest numbers, is outperforming many of its competitors.

Our survey showed that message is not always understood by consumers, so it's good to see that Permira managing partner Damon Buffini is willing to take part in the public debate. It's as important for retailers as it is for the general public.

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