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A sad parting for Philip Clarke and Tesco

The headline to the press release sent out by Tesco almost said it all: “Appointment of Chief Executive Officer”; as if the departure of the man currently doing the job didn’t somehow qualify as news.

In a sense it isn’t a surprise. Philip Clarke has presided over three years of declining sales.

Under his command the mighty ship 'Tesco' has been listing alarmingly but although shareholders were openly rebellious they haven’t appeared particularly mutinous.

Philip Clarke was re-elected as chief executive at the company’s AGM a few weeks ago.

Broadly there has been sympathy for the challenges he had faced.

He inherited a company that had over-stretched itself with problems in the United States, Japan and China.

David Cameron visiting a Tesco in China, a market that has proven difficult for the company. Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Archive/Press Association Images

At home, the discounters have been beating Tesco on price, the likes of Waitrose beating it on quality.

To make matters worse, in the age of the convenience store, Tesco's fleet of megastores have been shunned. People were shopping elsewhere.

Clarke had a turnaround plan, it seemed sensible enough but it wasn't obviously working.

This morning's profits warning is a sign that things continue to get worse not better.

To date not a single institutional shareholder has called for Clarke’s head, but patience is finite.

The board has acted and turned to a man from Unilever.

Dave Lewis takes over with a "fresh perspective" and one imagines a new strategy, although the supermarket won’t say what it is.

Spare a thought for Philip Clarke. He will leave with enough cash and shares that he'll never have to work again but this is a sad parting of ways.

Clarke has been at Tesco man and boy. Tomorrow he was due to celebrate 40 years with the company.

The official party at the V&A has been cancelled, his reign is over