Peter Salsbury, 50, who has worked for M&S all his adult life, is being blamed for the retailer's continued failure to reverse its spectacular decline.
The store's institutional shareholders, who have the power to force him out, want Mr Salsbury replaced by an outsider untainted by the company's disastrous fall from grace.
The mood of the money men was demonstrated by one institutional investor who said: "Salsbury is history. The shareholders want him out." Another added: "He's too tied up with the old establishment."
These shareholders, who have invested billions of pounds of pension fund money in M&S, are concerned that Mr Salsbury's long career with the company has made it impossible for him to address its crippling problems. Mr Salsbury joined M&S as a graduate trainee in 1970, working in the Worthing branch. He was the anointed heir to Sir Richard Greenbury, the former chairman, who for eight years ruled the retailer with an iron grip.
The investors want Mr Salsbury to close M&S's headquarters in London as a way of dismantling the bureaucracy that they believe has stilted the company's progress.
Another big investor said: "I'm not sure that Peter Salsbury is quite radical enough and I can imagine the internal baronies within M&S trying to undermine his position.
"I worry that it will end up like the Conservative Party, with everyone fighting political battles within the company rather than dealing with fundamental problems."
M&S is looking for a new chairman, supposedly to work alongside Mr Salsbury, but the search has proved fruitless. It is understood that several candidates interviewed for the post said they would only take the job if they also replaced Mr Salsbury.
Mr Salsbury this week faces his critics when he presents his plans for M&S to the company's big investors. He will tell them of the retailer's plans to buy more supplies from overseas, a move expected to save pounds 450m a year but which would cost thousands of jobs in the UK. He will also outline his intention to sell off property in a bid to raise another pounds 400m.
An M&S spokeswomen said: "Having set out a detailed, fully-costed plan for change, Peter Salsbury will be discussing directly with institutions these plans for the transformation of the business."Reuse content