Monday, September 22, 2008

Key Personnel Breaking News: Co-Vice President of Retail Operations Brian Pugh No Longer Employed At Tesco Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market

Brian Pugh, Tesco Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market's co-vice president of retail operations has left the company, according to information obtained by Fresh & Easy Buzz.

Additionally, we've independently and directly verified Mr. Pugh no longer works for Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market at its corporate headquarters in El Segundo or elsewhere for the grocery chain.

Brian Pugh left Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market around the first week of this month, close to the the Labor Day holiday.

In addition, Brian Pugh's wife, who worked for Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market and whom he met while both worked at the corporate headquarters office in El Segundo, also is no longer with the company, leaving at about the same time he Pugh did.

Mr. Pugh was one of the original Tesco Plc. executives who came to the U.S. to start up the Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market small-format, convenience-oriented, combination basic grocery and fresh foods chain.

Others key senior corporate executives who in addition to Brian Pugh came from Tesco's United Kingdom or other international divisions to Southern California to start-up Fresh & Easy, and who remain in positions with the company, include CEO Tim Mason, director of marketing Simon Uwins, Tony Eggs, who's head of the retailer's store development program, and others.

As we reported in August, Charlotte Maxwell, who came from Tesco's UK operations to head Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market's grocery merchandising department, recently returned to Tesco-UK to accept a director-level position there. Her title at Fresh & Easy corporate was director of grocery merchandising.

On March 12, 2008, we reported in this piece, "Breaking News: Tesco plc. Makes Major Personnel Change to Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market USA Senior Management Team ," that Tesco was reassigning Jeff Adams, the then CEO of Tesco-Lotus in Thailand, to Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market to share the vice president of retail operations position and duties with Brian Pugh.

Nearly three months later, as we reported in this May 29, 2008 story, Tesco Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market confirmed in a press release our March 12 report that Jeff Adams had joined Fresh & Easy at the El Segundo corporate office and that he would be sharing duties with Brian Pugh; both men holding the title of co-vice president of retail operations.

In the May 29 piece we discussed how unusual of an arrangement having co-vice presidents of retail operations is for a grocery chain, commenting in the story that time will tell how such an arrangement works out.

Less than four months later, Mr. Pugh has left Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market. Jeff Adams now is the vice president of retail operations for the chain, holding that title alone.

We haven't learned the specific reason Brian Pugh left Tesco Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market, at least not to the verification standards we employ in reporting on Fresh & Easy Buzz. Further, we aren't suggesting Mr. Pugh's departure had anything to do with the relationship between him and Jeff Adams or the fact they shared the position.

However, we have learned two things. First, according to sources in the UK in a position to know, it appears Mr. Pugh no longer works for Tesco Plc. Additionally, we've learned Brian Pugh's departure from Fresh & Easy corporate was rather abrupt -- that he hadn't discussed with any co-workers having any plans to leave the company, nor that he was leaving to accept another job opportunity in the industry or elsewhere.

Mr. Pugh's voice mail at Fresh & Easy's El Segundo office still works. However, it doesn't have his recorded voice on the system. Additionally, his company mobile phone no longer works. An employee verified he no longer works for the company.

Brian Pugh is the latest in a long line of Tesco Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market headquarter employees to leave the grocery chain this year.

As we reported in this August 17, 2008 story, "Special Report: Tesco Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Experiencing A Category Manager and Buyer 'Brain Drain'," five category managers and buyers have left the company in just a four -to- five month period -- from February -to- June, 2008 -- this year.

Additionally, about 11 category managers and buyers overall have left Fresh & Easy since it set up shop at the corporate office in El Segundo, California about two year's ago.

Further, as we mentioned above, and reported in this piece on August 17, 2008, " Special Report: Tesco Fresh & Easy's Director of Grocery Returning to the UK; Grocery Chain Reorganizing its Corporate Buying Department," Charlotte Maxwell, who was the director of grocery merchandising since Fresh & Easy launched in the U.S., recently left, returning to the UK to accept a director level position with Tesco there. Ms. Maxwell is a British citizen. [Click here for an addition story on Charlotte Maxwell's departure from Fresh & Easy.

Brian Pugh has a prior working history with both Jeff Adams, who up until this month he shared the vice president of retail operations title and position with, as well as with Tesco Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market CEO Tim Mason.

Those who know both Mr. Pugh and Mr. Mason describe them as friends. Jeff Adams and Brian Pugh worked closely together in the past at Tesco-Lotus in Thailand. Both men also are former employees of Wal-Mart, Inc.

Since Brain Pugh and Mr. Adams shared the vice president of retail operations position, we don't expect there to be a major problem in terms of Jeff Adams' getting up to speed on the portion of the shared duties that belonged to Mr. Pugh.

However, Brian Pugh did have an institutional memory of the chain since he was part of Fresh & Easy's start up. That knowledge could be a loss to the grocery chain, along with other aspects of his knowledge and experience.

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