Birmingham business and retail chief Andy Street has taken a major step towards becoming the Conservative candidate for West Midlands mayor by announcing his intention to resign from two key roles.
As exclusively revealed by the Birmingham Mail in July, managing director of John Lewis Mr Street wants to be the region's first elected mayor next May.
John Lewis has today decided to end the speculation and issued the following statement on its website, saying that, should he win the Tory nomination later this month, he will leave the company.
Mr Street has also today resigned as chairman of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP), the region's business investment organisation to pursue his political ambition.
The retailer's statement said: "The John Lewis Partnership notes recent speculation that managing director Andy Street is to run for the office of the mayor of the West Midlands.
"Andy has indicated to the chairman that he is interested in running for the office but at this stage has not been formally selected. A formal process within the Conservative party will now take place.
"Should Andy be successful in his application, he has agreed with the chairman that he should step down from his role and a further announcement will be made to confirm the succession plan for the future leadership of the John Lewis brand."
Mr Street has also chaired GBSLEP since it was formed in 2011 and, under his leadership, it has negotiated the city centre enterprise zone deals and played a part in attracting major businesses, including the HS2 headquarters and HSBC bank to Birmingham.
The LEP's deputy chairman Steve Hollis said: "As the founding chairman of the GBSLEP, Andy has overseen a transformational change in the Greater Birmingham and Solihull economy.
"We are now a top performing region for the rate of private sector job creation and have seen the number of people claiming unemployment benefit halve from its high in February 2012.
"Last year was another impressive year for attracting overseas investors, with 81 projects in the area, while the level of exports has also continued to grow. Andy has used his John Lewis experience to drive this transformation.
"It has been a privilege to work with Andy and witness the Greater Birmingham and Solihull economy move from being the laggard in the UK five years ago to now being the leader across many measures.
"Andy's passion for his home region is infectious as is the way he has brought partners together to realise our shared goals for the area.
"We are witnessing an economic renaissance and new era of optimism. We are the outperforming region in the UK and we are positioned to be one of the global leaders. We owe a huge debt of gratitude for Andy's leadership".
Mr Street is the overwhelming favourite to secure the Conservative nomination to battle it out with Labour candidate Sion Simon and Lib Dem Beverley Nielson to become the first elected mayor of the West Midlands.
The Conservatives have announced that there will be a selection meeting for party members on September 29.
The first official public appearance for the chosen candidate will be to open the Conservative Party Conference and welcome Prime Minister Theresa May to Birmingham on October 2.