John Lewis hires Clifford Chance real estate co-head as GC in newly created role

Jane Cheong Tung Sing joins as partnership GC and company secretary after 25 years at Clifford Chance

Jane Cheong Tung Sing Image courtesy of Clifford Chance

UK retail giant John Lewis has hired Clifford Chance veteran Jane Cheong Tung Sing as its partnership general counsel and company secretary.

Cheong Tung Sing will begin in the newly-created role at the largest employee-owned company in the UK at the start of next month after 25 years at the Magic Circle firm, where she currently serves as co-head of its real estate practice.

She will take over from interim GC Rebecca Law – who stepped into the role in June after Hannah Hullah began a sabbatical and will return to being head of legal – and interim company secretary Simon Blackburn. Cheong Tung Sing will be an independent attendee of the executive team and partnership board and is expected to ‘ensure we progress our partnership plan ambitions in a way that upholds the spirit and letter of our constitution and the law’.

She will lead the legal, company secretariat, business support and data privacy teams, as well as providing support for the chief of staff, Christina Slater, and head of trustee services for the partnership’s pension trust, Martin Mannion. 

As partnership secretary, Cheong Tung Sing will be responsible for ensuring effective decision making and governance across the partnership, as well as making recommendations to the trustees on interpretation of the constitution. To do this effectively, the retailer said, this role is independent from the governing authorities and the executive team. She will work closely with all the governing authorities, including the partnership council, which is elected by staff to hold management to account.  

She said: "I'm thrilled to be joining this great partnership with such a strong sense of purpose. I'm looking forward to working with my fellow partners to promote an inclusive and vibrant governance structure that champions the partnership’s positive values and empowers the business to meet its ambitious goals.”

Cheong Tung Sing joins at a testing time for John Lewis, operator of John Lewis department stores and the Waitrose supermarket chain. It was already wrestling with the downturn on British high streets and the move to online shopping before the Covid pandemic and went £635m into the red in the first half of last year after writing off nearly £500m from the value of its department stores due to poor performance.

Last month it was reported that it had reduced its losses to £29m in the first half of its financial year as it closed loss-making stores, cut jobs and accepted £58m in tax relief from the government, but faced uncertainty over Christmas trading.

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