Sir Terry Leahy

Sir Terry Leahy has a reputation for taking chances. Spearheading Tesco’s move onto U.S. soil, however, could be his biggest gamble of all.

Leahy, 50, has come under fire for leading a company that has been described as “too successful.” These accusations also subjected Tesco to intense regulatory and political scrutiny, stymieing local growth. Rather than back down, Leahy used the challenge as a springboard to expand operations overseas.

Targeting the United States as its latest conquest, Tesco opened its first six convenience store-type Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market banners in Southern California in November. The units all boast self-service front ends, a predominantly pre-packaged assortment and a strong private-label presence. There are currently 15 stores across Los Angeles, Las Vegas and San Diego, and 200 more could open by the end of the year.

Keeping his “crossover” options open, Leahy is eyeing opportunities in India and possibly Russia. And if all goes according to plan, sales from the globalization project could eventually rival sales generated in Tesco’s Great Britain home—making Leahy the leader of one of the few truly successful international retailers.