Morrisons chairman Sir Ian Gibson has resigned from the troubled supermarket just hours before it holds its annual general meeting at the company’s Bradford headquarters.
His decision to quit after eight years is expected to ease the pressure on chief executive Dalton Philips for a while until a new chairman is appointed.
Gibson, who said he would not seek re-election at next year’s AGM, told shareholders: “The term I’m standing for today will bring me into my 8th year on the board of Morrisons, and it is appropriate that the board proceeds with succession arrangements.”
Sources close to the company suggested Gibson stepped down after months of pressure over his position at the top of the UK’s fourth biggest supermarket, which has seen the company report a £176 million loss last year.
Gibson added: “Clearly this is another challenging year for Morrisons in a rapidly changing grocery market.
“We are in a period if profound structural and permanent change in the shape of food retail and of Morrisons, so we are taking steps, in part painful steps, to position Morrisons for a long-term sustainable success.”
The supermarket has suffered dreadful sales in the past year as it lost out heavily to the rise of discounters Aldi and Lidl and struggled to catch up with rivals by launching online and convenience stores.
Some shareholders laid the blame at the chairman’s door and said it was right for him to step down.
Alan Lindley, a private shareholder from Skipton, told the Evening Standard: “I think at the end of the day, the buck stops with him. He has been here for eight years and watched the problems unfold, so it’s probably fairer that he goes instead of the chief executive.”