Mohsin Issa arrived at Asda’s head office in Leeds three years ago bristling with intent. Internally, the supermarket chain’s new co-owner likened Asda to a supertanker and declared that it would be more like a jet-ski under the guidance of himself and his brother, Zuber — two of Britain’s most swashbuckling entrepreneurs.

To underline the point, Mohsin challenged Asda’s leaders to deliver a 10 per cent rise in sales that Christmas. Asda’s senior team, hardened veterans of supermarket retailing, a tough business where you scrap for every sale, were taken aback by the scale of Mohsin’s ambition, convinced that the targets were impossible to meet. Asda’s sales that Christmas fell 2.9 per cent.

Over the past few years, Mohsin’s vaulting ambitions have collided with a brutally competitive market characterised by soaring interest rates, inflation and restrained consumer spending.

“It’s a bit like Mike Tyson said, ‘Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face’,” said Asda chairman Lord (Stuart) Rose, who joined the business at the end of 2021. “We had an aspiration [to grow] three years ago, but there have been lots of things outside of our control. We have achieved a hell of a lot — but we would have liked to have moved a lot faster.”

Now, three years after they took charge of Asda, the brothers are preparing to hand over the controls to somebody else. Zuber, 51, finalised a deal this month to sell his 22.5 per cent stake in Asda to TDR Capital, the London-based private equity firm that bankrolled the brothers’ rise.

Meanwhile, Mohsin, 52, has agreed to return to running EG Group, the brothers’ global petrol forecourt empire, as soon as Asda finds a suitable chief executive to replace him.

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