'His patience has finally run out': Morrisons' deputy set to resign

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The Independent Online

Wm Morrison's respected deputy chairman, David Jones, is understood to be looking to quit within a matter of months in the latest crisis to hit the supermarket chain.

Wm Morrison's respected deputy chairman, David Jones, is understood to be looking to quit within a matter of months in the latest crisis to hit the supermarket chain.

Mr Jones, the only non-executive director, had been expected to stay until a replacement is found for the chief executive, Bob Stott, who is not due to leave until 2007.

Only last month, Mr Jones said: "I did say my first priority was the finance director, my second was the four non-executive directors, and in the course of time Bob, Ken and myself will be looking at who will be Bob's successor."

But people close to the retailer said Mr Jones is now looking to leave as soon as the non-executives are in place - which could be only months or even weeks away.

The news is unlikely to go down well in the City. Investors are desperate for Mr Jones to appoint the directors and restore order to Morrisons' apparently chaotic board after five profit warnings in less than a year. "That's bad news," confirmed one investor. "It sounds like his patience has finally run out."

Mr Jones and Sir Ken Morrison are thought to have clashed over who to appoint as non-executives, the chairman balking at his deputy's suggestions.

A string of high-profile names, including former Asda boss Archie Norman, have also turned down Morrisons' approaches. Helen Weir, the finance director of Lloyds TSB, was due to be revealed as a non-executive at the AGM last month, but pulled out at the last minute.

Mr Jones is respected in the City but has a number of other roles, including the chairmanship of fashion chain Next and Noble Automotive, a sports-car manufacturer. Noble, in which Mr Jones has a 60 per cent stake, is considering floating.

Morrisons' annual profits are now expected to be between £50m and £150m, well below previous estimates, and concerns are growing that the dividend will be cut.

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