Tuesday 16 January 2018

Morrisons names former Tesco executive as new boss

Shopping trolleys are stacked at a Morrisons store in Coalville, central England. Reuters/Darren Staples
Shopping trolleys are stacked at a Morrisons store in Coalville, central England. Reuters/Darren Staples

UK supermarket Morrisons has named former Tesco executive David Potts as its new chief executive, completing a triumvirate of ex-Tesco men at the top of the firm.

Mr Potts, 57, who had been the bookmakers' favourite for the job, is tasked with returning Morrisons to growth after it lagged larger rivals: market leader Tesco, Wal-Mart's Asda and Sainsbury's.

Mr Potts, a former Tesco colleague of Morrisons chairman Andrew Higginson, will start on March 16. He succeeds Dalton Philips who was ousted in January.

Mr Potts had a 40-year career with Tesco. Having started off stacking shelves in his local store, he rose to head the firm's supply chain, its UK business and then its Asian operations.

Since leaving Tesco in 2011 he has acted as a retail expert to several international advisory and private equity businesses.

"David is the best retailer I have worked with in 25 years in the industry," Mr Higginson said.

"Having worked alongside him for 15 years, I know he will bring to Morrisons a focus on the customer, a track record of delivery, flair, talent, and immense energy to his new role."

Morrisons' chief financial officer Trevor Strain is a former Tesco UK property finance director, so Potts' appointment means the top three jobs at the firm will be held by ex-Tesco men.

Mr Philips was sacked on January 13, the same day Morrisons reported another plunge in Christmas sales, and left the business on February 16.

Mr Potts' annual salary will be £850,000 (€1.16m), the same as his predecessor, and he will also be eligible for long term and short term incentive schemes.

All of Britain's "big four" grocers are grappling with the rise of fast-growing discounters Aldi and Lidl and are engaged in a fierce price war.

Morrisons has been particularly hard hit because the discounters are strong in its northern heartlands and it was late to move into better performing parts of the market, namely convenience stores and online shopping.

After a failed shift upmarket, Mr Philips dramatically changed tack to take on the discounters last March with a massive profit warning and plans to slash prices.

Some analysts say this, coupled with a focus on fresh produce supplied by its own farms and abattoirs, could help Morrisons recover under a new boss.

Mr Higginson said in January that Morrisons' strategy was "well cast", indicating it was unlikely to change significantly under a new chief executive.


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