Former Tesco chief puts money into nicotine

A medical devices group developing non-tobacco nicotine delivery systems has won the backing of Sir Terry Leahy in the latest private investment by the former Tesco chief executive since he retired in March.

Sir Terry has put an undisclosed sum behind Kind Consumer, a start-up that will announce on Thursday a commercial partnership with Nicoventures, a subsidiary of British American Tobacco devoted to the marketing and sale of non-tobacco consumer products.

Sir Terry has also taken a 3 per cent stake in the fast-growing internet retailer The Hut Group, which is targeting a UK stock market listing in the next 12 months.

The owner of websites including and I Want One of Those, The Hut Group boasts a register of high-profile shareholders including Sir Stuart Rose, the ex-Marks and Spencer chief who has a 1 per cent stake, and Balderton Capital, an early investor in Ebay, which has slightly more than 20 per cent.

Kind Consumer’s other backers include Jon Moulton, the venture capitalist, and Sir Peter Davis, former chief executive of Prudential.

Kind Consumer’s device is meant to mimic cigarettes not only in nicotine delivery but in the “psychological rituals and routines” that surround smoking, says Alex Hearn, the company’s founder. But it does not contain tobacco nor does it involve combustion.

Mr Hearn and his team aim to submit an application for marketing authorisation in the UK next year. The contract with Nicoventures is for distribution for the duration of the 20-year patent.

Sir Terry also backs, a website with educational videos aimed at GCSE students and developed by former BBC and ITV executives. “I’ve made a number of investments, up to about 10,” he told the Financial Times.

Sir Terry has also joined buy-out firm Clayton Dubilier & Rice as a senior adviser.

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