The Business On: Sir Ken Morrison, Life President, Wm Morrison

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Is he making a comeback?

Sort of the opposite actually, in that he has been selling down his stake in the supermarket group his family founded. When Sir Ken retired as chairman in 2008, the Morrisons family's interests controlled around a fifth of the shares in the business. Now that's down to less than a tenth and Sir Ken's stake is down from 6 per cent to below 1 per cent.



Did I miss a big sale?

That's the thing. It turns out there's been a series of sales over the past two years. But the company has only just found out about them, which is why it's only just made an announcement to the Stock Exchange.



Shouldn't Sir Ken have said something?

Yes and he may now find himself in hot water with City regulators. His defence seems to be that the shareholdings in question were held by a number of family trusts and thedisposals have been complex.



Will he be worried?

Well, there's the possibility of a fine, which no one would welcome. But it's fair to say that Sir Ken, now 79, has always had a healthy disregard for the City's ways. When he ran the business he routinely rejected corporate governance activists' calls to install more non-executive directors, refused to shell out for expensive City advisers, and generally avoided travelling to London unless he absolutely had to.



Well, it was his business, after all.

It started out that way – Sir Ken joined his dad's company in 1952 when it was still based on a market in Bradford. And he was phenomenally successful for most of his career, so investors gave him some leeway. Still, in floating Morrisons in 1968, Sir Ken was agreeing to abide by the rules that apply to public companies.



What will he say now?

He'll probably blame "soft" Southerners for the row – he's still pretty old-school on the North-South divide. You certainly shouldn't expect him to be too contrite.



And how is Morrisons getting on without him?

Not too badly. New chief executive Dalton Philips is modernising, embracing the sort of trendy new ideas – the internet, for example – that Sir Ken never had much truck with. We'll see how it turns out.

Comments