Boss of UK retailer John Lewis apologizes for saying France is 'finished'

Associated Press

It was a speech that got lost in translation.

The boss of British retail chain John Lewis has apologized for saying France is "in decline" and "finished."

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The Times newspaper reported that managing director Andy Street had made the critical comments at an event for entrepreneurs in London.

It said he described France as "sclerotic, hopeless and downbeat," and said "nothing works and worse, nobody cares about it."

In a statement Friday, Street said his comments "were supposed to be lighthearted views, and tongue in cheek."

He added that "on reflection I clearly went too far. I regret the comments, and apologize unreservedly."

John Lewis operates upmarket department stores in Britain. It does not have any stores in France but is planning to launch a website for French customers.