John Lewis chief Sharon White marked her arrival with plan for M&S merger

(link may be behind a paywall)

Back in 2020, when she joined, White drafted in advisers to explore merger and acquisition options with M&S, the high street rival.

Investment bankers from JP Morgan alongside Simon Robey, co-founder of Robey Warshaw, the boutique investment bank, are understood to have been instructed by White to offer counsel on strategic options to help to develop the business, including whether the partnership could purchase M&S.

More recently, Dame White has been proposing to partially demutualise the business to raise £2bn capital to transform. JLP has pretty much tapped out the amount of bond debt the mutual business can carry, I think I have seen figures of £1.7bn bond debt, which I think is long dated so no refinancing looming.

Not sure merger in part (i.e. selling/merging Waitrose grocery business) or as a whole would actually be helpful, and not sure full demutualising to a e.g. sovereign wealth fund would be tolerated by employee trustees unless the situation was truly dire. (For comparison, Qatar sovereign wealth fund owns a big stake in competitor Sainbury’s)