This article is more than 1 year old

What first attracted Ofcom boss Sharon White to the near-£1m salary offered by John Lewis Partnership?

Because we haven't a clue

The chief exec at Ofcom is swapping life battling telcos – or doing their bidding, depending on your perspective – for an altogether more lucrative role as the chairman of John Lewis Partnership.

White rocked up at the comms regulator back in late 2014 on a relatively paltry starting salary of £270,000 per year. Prior to that she had been Second Permanent Secretary of the Finance Ministry of the Treasury.

Outgoing chairman Sir Charles Mayfield confirmed White will be paid £990,000 a year. He recognised she is not the "conventional retail choice", but added: "These are not conventional retail times, nor is the Partnership a conventional company."

Ofcom chairman Lord Burns issued a canned statement: "Under Sharon's leadership, Ofcom has helped to deliver ultrafast broadband, widespread mobile 4G and now 5G, and became the first independent regulator of the BBC."

Broadband download speeds in Britain are still way below the global average so Lord Burns shouldn't pat himself or White on the back too hard. And it is too early for self-congratulation when it comes to claims about 5G. Also let's not bother talking about the damp squib that was the Universal Service Obligation.

That said, the comms regulator has done some good work with regards to broadband and mobile phone contracts, and forcing operators to warn customers ahead of those deals expiring.

White, who leaves the post at the end of the year, claimed she will "leave behind an organisation that is dedicated in its mission to make communications work for everyone".

She faces new challenges at John Lewis Partnership. The group reported operating losses of £90.9m in the year ended 26 January 2019, compared to an operating loss of £65.4m the year prior. This was on sales of £11.75bn, up 1 per cent.

A successor will be sought by the Ofcom board and is subject to approval by the Secretary of State for the Ministry of Fun – also known as the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. ®

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