LONDON Tesco's (TSCO.L) under-fire finance chief Laurie McIlwee quit on Friday days before Britain's biggest retailer is expected to announce another decline in profit and following months of speculation about his future.
Tesco, the world's third-largest retailer which has been hit by fierce competition, said McIlwee had decided to step down from the board and resign from the company but had agreed to remain in his role to ensure a smooth handover to his successor.
"The board is commencing a process to find a new chief financial officer with both internal and external applicants being considered," Tesco said in a statement.
McIlwee became CFO in January 2009 and had been with the retailer since 2000. He had been the only other executive director on the board alongside Chief Executive Philip Clarke.
"After 14 years at Tesco I feel that now is the right time for me to pursue new opportunities," McIlwee said.
McIlwee became the focus of investor disquiet in October after Tesco shocked investors by reporting a collapse in profits at its central European unit, which he had failed to signal.
Sources familiar with the situation have previously told Reuters that some investors were not happy with the way McIlwee interacted with them, and that his position was under threat.
Media reports have also said he has clashed with Clarke over some areas of strategy.
Having dominated the British retail market for years, the 95-year-old Tesco stunned the industry in 2012 when it issued its first profit warning in 20 years.
It is expected to post another decline in profit when it publishes 2013-14 results on April 16.
In common with Britain's three other leading grocers - Wal-Mart's Asda (WMT.N), Sainsbury's (SBRY.L) and Morrisons (MRW.L) - Tesco is being squeezed between the hard discounters Aldi ALDIEI.UL and Lidl LIDUK.UL and upmarket grocers Waitrose JLPC.UL and Marks & Spencer (MKS.L), losing market share.
(Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Neil Maidment)