Booker Group CEO Charles Wilson has been named The Sunday Times’ business person of the year.
Wilson was given the honour – won in previous years by ex-Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy and ex-Morrisons CEO Marc Bolland – for transforming the cash & carry wholesaler from a company on the verge of collapse into an operation for which Tesco is now paying nearly £4bn.
The newspaper’s judging panel noted: “In British business, [the Tesco] merger is unquestionably the deal of the year — unveiled in January and approved by the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) in December, without conditions or penalties. It gives the new group a more or less complete vertical integration of the supply chain in groceries, with the added buying power that brings. In a world where margins are under pressure, it could be a powerful weapon.
“The deal has prompted some knee-jerk reactions, with the Co-op buying the Nisa corner shop group, and the likes of Sainsbury’s and Morrisons scratching around for responses.
“While credit is due also to the Tesco boss Dave Lewis — and the Tesco legal team that persuaded the CMA to wave through the deal — the Booker merger is a crowning achievement for Wilson. That is why we are naming him The Sunday Times Business Person of the Year for 2017.”
The Tesco deal has not been without its critics in the wholesale channel, and even prompted the bosses of several buying groups and major wholesalers to join forces to write to the CMA to express their opposition to the merger.