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Tesco chairman John Allan accused of inappropriate behaviour

john allan - Jeff Overs/BBC
john allan - Jeff Overs/BBC

The chairman of Tesco has denied allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards women as the company braces for a barrage of questions from shareholders over its culture.

City grandee John Allan was this week facing accusations from four separate women over what they claimed were unprofessional and inappropriate actions.

According to the Guardian, which reported the allegations, Mr Allan touched the bottom of two women and made inappropriate remarks to two other women on separate occasions between 2019 and 2022.

This included touching the bottom of a senior Tesco employee at the supermarket's annual general meeting last year, it is alleged.

The allegations have emerged weeks before Tesco is expected to hold its 2023 annual general meeting, which is typically hosted by the chairman.

Executives will be preparing for questions from shareholders over the claims, sources said.

The other claims related to staff from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) where Mr Allan was president between 2018 and 2020.

He then served as vice president of the CBI until 2021.

Mr Allan did not respond to requests for comment, but denied all of the claims to the Guardian except one, which related to comments he made about a CBI worker's appearance in 2019.

A spokesman told the newspaper: "Mr Allan was mortified after making the comment in 2019 and he immediately apologised. The person concerned agreed the matter was closed and no further action was taken. Regarding the other claims, they are simply untrue."

Tesco has not launched an investigation into the allegations made in the Guardian.

It said: "In relation to John Allan’s conduct at Tesco’s 2022 AGM, Tesco has received no complaints or concerns formally or informally, including through our confidential Protector Line service.

"John Allan’s conduct has never been the subject of a complaint during his tenure as chair of Tesco."

It has said all concerns or complaints raised about conduct are "always taken very seriously and investigated thoroughly".

A spokesman said: "This is a serious allegation, and if anyone has any concerns or information, we would ask them to share those with us through any of our reporting channels including through our confidential Protector Line, so we can investigate."

It comes weeks after Tesco joined other businesses in pausing its membership of the CBI, in the wake of allegations of rape and harassment at its events.

The lobby group is currently undergoing a 60-day review as it battles to restore its reputation as "the voice of business".

Dozens of organisations have cancelled their membership of the CBI, while Jeremy Hunt has said there is "no point" engaging with the organisation.

An independent report into the culture at the CBI found that it had harboured "toxic" sexual predators.