Sharon White. Photo: John Lewis Partnership

The head of British telecoms regulator Ofcom, Sharon White, has quit to become the new chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, the employee-owned retailer, both organisations said on Thursday.

White will step down from Ofcom around the turn of the year after more than four years in the job and succeed Charlie Mayfield as John Lewis’ chairman in early 2020.

Before joining Ofcom, White was a senior official in Britain’s finance ministry and prior to that a senior official in the justice ministry and in the department for international development.

She has also worked as an adviser at the UK Prime Minister’s Policy Unit and in Washington DC as a senior economist at the World Bank.

“I readily recognise that Sharon is not the conventional retail choice. But these are not conventional retail times, nor is the Partnership a conventional company,” said Mayfield.

White will be the sixth chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, which is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year. The parent company of John Lewis department stores and Waitrose supermarkets are owned by around 83,000 employees.

“I am a passionate believer in the partnership: partners working together for each other’s wellbeing with the confidence to invest for the long-term and a focus on delivering for our customers in a rapidly changing retail environment,” she said.

“John Lewis & Partners and Waitrose & Partners are not merely British retail icons, but also a model of a better way to do business.”