The Guardian: Tesco chair faces sexual harassment allegations
All except one of the charges are denied by John Allan, a notable business leader and former CBI president.
According to The Guardian, Tesco chairman John Allan, one of the UK's most renowned corporate executives, is facing allegations of improper and unprofessional behavior from four women.
Allan reportedly sexually assaulted a senior Tesco employee during the company's annual general meeting (AGM) in June 2022. It is also claimed that he sexually assaulted a member of staff at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) during its annual dinner in May 2019, when he was president of the organization.
According to sources, Allan, 74, made improper statements in those instances, as well as separate, similar remarks to two other female CBI employees in November 2019 and 2021. Some of the ladies stated that the claimed behaviors offended them and that they viewed his behavior to constitute sexual harassment.
Read more: 56 UK MPs facing allegations of sexual misconduct
The executive has denied all but one of the allegations - a comment he made regarding a CBI staffer's look that she believed was offensive in 2019. A spokesperson for Allan said the other claims are “simply untrue”.
A Tesco spokesperson stated that “John Allan’s conduct has never been the subject of a complaint during his tenure as chair of Tesco.” Anyone with issues or information should call a private phone number, according to the business.
The charges against Allan surfaced during The Guardian's investigation into the CBI, the UK's leading corporate lobbying organization. Allan served as president of the organization from 2018 to 2020, and then as vice president until October 2021. Since 2015, he has served as the chairman of the UK's largest retailer.
According to several of the women, the accusations raise concerns about whether someone in his position can respect the corporate governance norms that his roles require. Allan is one of the most senior individuals in UK business, frequently going on the radio to advocate for the industry and serving on the boards of some of the country's largest corporations.
One woman expressed that “Leading a company or challenging its leadership means you have to hold up standards across all areas of governance, including sexual harassment. He fell short of what the role is meant to mean.”
Another divulged that the subject may be small to some people but she feels “humiliated and undermined by his actions.”
A spokesperson for Allan responded that “Mr Allan was mortified after making the comment in 2019 and he immediately apologized. The person concerned agreed the matter was closed and no further action was taken. Regarding the other claims, they are simply untrue."
"Even so, Mr Allan requested that Tesco and Fox Williams – who were instructed by the CBI to conduct an investigation following various allegations – investigate them. Fox Williams decided not to, and Tesco are not aware of and have not received any complaints about Mr Allan’s conduct either at the 2022 AGM or over the eight years that he has been chair of Tesco."
Last month, The Guardian revealed that the former CBI board member made an improper remark about a colleague's attire in 2019 and sexually assaulted another woman at the organization.
Since The Guardian revealed those charges last month as part of a larger piece about the CBI's culture, the CBI has been in disarray. Fox Williams, a legal firm, was engaged by the lobbying organization to review its treatment of those charges. It has subsequently halted its dinners and meetings, as well as its interaction with the government and businesses, amid a mass departure of corporations ranging from John Lewis to NatWest.