Wm Morrison moved last night to assure investors that Marc Bolland would call the shots when he joins the supermarket group as its chief executive in September.
Mr Bolland, who will end his 20-year tenure with the Dutch brewer Heineken on 1 July, will take control of Morrisons' executive board from Sir Ken Morrison, its 74-year-old chairman. The Heineken "lifer" will be the first non-family member to head the supermarket chain in its 107-year history.
In an attempt to dispel doubts that Sir Ken will ever cede power, Morrisons stressed Mr Bolland, 47, will be responsible for Morrisons' "overall commercial and strategic development and delivering the optimisation plan". The viability of the group's future hinges on the three-year turnaround plan to restore operating margins and slash excessive costs that was devised by Richard Pennycook, its new finance director.
Sir Ken will still work a five-day week at Morrisons until he steps down, which he has promised to do by January 2008. It is likely he will still collect a £675,000 annual salary, despite the demotion in his responsibilities.
Morrisons refused to provide details of Mr Bolland's future salary, how much it would cost to relocate him to Yorkshire from Amsterdam, or whether it had lured him with a "golden hello". It was also unknown whether he will need to be compensated for any share options in the Dutch company.
Mr Bolland, the brewer's chief operating officer, is highly rated by Heineken followers, but has been seeking to leave since he was passed over for the top job last year.
Sir Ken said Mr Bolland would bring "a wealth of experience operating in a highly competitive consumer products sector" and "extensive commercial and leadership skills".
Mr Bolland, who worked his way up since joining Heineken's management trainee scheme in 1987 with assignments in Zaire and Malaysia, said this was the "right move at this point" in his career. David Jones, the deputy chairman who has shaken up Morrisons' boardroom, will leave at the end of June. Bob Stott, the current chief executive, is likely to go at the end of September after a brief handover period. Paul Manduca will succeed Mr Jones as Morrisons' senior independent director.