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Allan Leighton

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Allan Leighton

Allan Leighton
Born (1953-04-12) 12 April 1953
Hereford, England
Residence Stanmore, England
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Nationality British
Education Magdalen College School
North Oxford Polytechnic
Harvard University
Known for Asda (former CEO)
Royal Mail (former Chairman)
Loblaw Companies (President)
Children 3

Allan Leighton (born 12 April 1953 in Hereford) is an English businessman, former CEO of Asda and former non-executive Chairman of the Royal Mail. He is currently the CEO of the Danish jewellery company Pandora.


Born in Hereford, the son of a Co-op stores manager, he was raised in Oxford. Educated at Magdalen College School, Brackley he harboured thoughts of becoming a professional footballer, but broke his leg in six places aged 15.[1]


After graduation from North Oxford Polytechnic, he joined Lloyds Bank as a cashier in 1972. Leighton left to join Mars UK in Slough 1974 as a salesman,[2] where he spent 18 years - his colleagues included Justin King, David Cheesewright and Richard Baker. Leighton was appointed General Sales Manager – UK Grocery Division in 1987 (the youngest director in the company worldwide),[1] and subsequently Managing Director of Mars in Ireland and Portugal.[3] Leighton says he owes a lot to the Mars brothers, who gave him the practical basis for much of what he did at Asda: they would fly economy, hire a car and inspect a factory without warning before management arrived, talking to workers to get a sense of what was going on.[4]

Leaving Mars group as marketing and sales director for Pedigree Petfoods, he joined Archie Norman's management team at Asda as Marketing Director in 1992. Sent on Harvard University's Advanced Management Program,[5] Leighton's style was simplistic and very much in touch with the staff, including wearing a badge like all other staff, stating: "Allan - happy to help." Over almost a decade Norman and Leighton transformed Adsa from a £500m company that was on its knees: "We created this culture in Asda which was, we were the underdogs, we were going to fight back."[4] Having effectively copied the successful model of United States retailer Wal-Mart (after Leighton spent time in Wal-Mart's base of Bentonville, Arkansas, John T. Walton had been to Leighton's home), after he replaced the departed Norman in 1996, Leighton sold the business to Wal-Mart over Kingfisher plc for £6.7 billion in 1999:[6] Sir Geoff Mulcahy, Kingfisher boss at the time, hasn't spoken to Leighton since.[1]

Leighton walked out in 2000 looking for a new challenge, and whenever asked what he was doing next, Leighton would always reply: "I am going plural." To this ends he took on a number of different roles:

Other posts have included non-executive at housebuilder Wilson Connolly and power company Scottish Power,[7] and Chairman of fitness chain Cannons Health Clubs where he wrote a weekly internal newsletter entitled "thoughts from the Jacuzzi."

Currently based half of the time in Toronto, Canada, he is advising retail magnate Galen Weston and his son (G1 and G2, as Leighton calls them) on Canadian retail chain Loblaw Companies (for which he is being paid C$1million),[8] and is Deputy Chairman of Selfridges & Co. On 21 April 2008 Loblaw Companies announced that Leighton will take on the role of President of the company, replacing Mark Foote.

Leighton was appointed Chairman of Yorkshire-based broadcast and broadband technology company Pace plc on 21 June 2011.

Leighton has made few television appearances, but is currently the "mentor" in Five's show "Breaking into Tesco."'

In 2004, Leighton was awarded an honorary degree from Cranfield University. In 2010 the University of Central Lancashire awarded him an Honorary Fellowship in recognition of his achievements.[9]


Leighton is chairman of Business in the Community.[2] Leighton loves sport, and although previously a skier, his knees still allow him to enjoy running - around 17miles a week in preparation for completing the London Marathon for a second time, in aid of Breast Cancer Care. Leighton has made a one-man bid to raise £1m for Breast Cancer Care, the charity to which he pledges all his earnings from television, speeches and his book "On Leadership"[8] which was written for him by ghostwriter, Teena Lyons.[10]

He supports Leeds United (where he was Deputy Chairman), Saracens rugby team, Northamptonshire County Cricket Club and the Toronto Maple Leafs ice-hockey team.[8]

Ten Golden Rules of Business

Leighton's Ten Golden Rules of Business:[11]

  • 1) Keep it simple
  • 2) Focus on execution
  • 3) Listen to your operators
  • 4) Think small. Small is big
  • 5) Less often is more
  • 6) Your people come first
  • 7) Think like a customer
  • 8) If in doubt, do the right thing....
  • 9) ....but then do things right
  • 10) Remember, EGO stands for "edging good out"


  1. ^ a b c
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b c
  9. ^ Yorkshire Post, 10 September 2013 (not online).
  10. ^
  11. ^

External links

  • - Leighton's personal website
  • - Leighton's website on the philosophy of "going plural"
  • Allan Leighton at the Internet Movie Database
  • The Sunday Times - Allan Leighton keeps running
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