Blow for Morrisons as finance man walks away

The finance director who played a crucial role in building Morrisons into a nationwide grocer, after the débâcle of its takeover of Safeway in 2004, is leaving.

Richard Pennycook, who has been at the supermarket chain for seven years, will remain until July 2013 but the news of his planned exit sent its shares down by 3.6p, or 1.34 per cent, to 264.8p yesterday.

Despite him working his notice period, Mr Pennycook's exit is a blow for Morrisons, which suffered its first fall in underlying sales for seven years in the first quarter of its current financial year.

Mr Pennycook, 48, who is also on the board of the housebuilder Persimmon, wants to follow a portfolio career of non-executive roles, including a chairmanship. He said: "This was a difficult decision but by the time I leave next year I will have been at Morrisons for over eight years and I feel that it's the right time to seek new challenges."

Before Mr Pennycook joined Morrisons in October 2005 from the motoring company RAC, the grocer had lost control of its finances after acquiring the Safeway chain the previous year.

Mr Pennycook, pictured, who received total pay of £1.18m last year and owns Morrisons shares worth £1.67m, is also in line to receive a retention bonus of £1.25m next year if the chain hits performance targets.

He is quitting two years after the arrival of chief executive Dalton Philips, who described him as "exceptional". Morrisons has now launched a search for a new finance director.