Morrisons finds new CEO at Canada's Loblaw

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The Independent Online

Morrisons stunned the grocery world yesterday by hiring a relatively unknown Irishman as its chief executive to fill the boots of Marc Bolland, who is joining Marks & Spencer.

Dalton Philips has been the chief operating officer of Loblaw, Canada's largest grocer, since 2007, and has also held senior positions at the Irish department store Brown Thomas and the retail behemoth Wal-Mart . He will join the Bradford-based grocer in March.

The appointment of Mr Philips is a blow for Richard Pennycook, the finance director at the Bradford-based grocer, who had been tipped to succeed Mr Bolland and is highly regarded by the City.

It is thought that Allan Leighton, who is currently Loblaw's chairman, played a key role in the hiring of Mr Philips. Mr Leighton, who helped to turn around Asda and sell it to Wal-Mart in the 1990s, is close to Sir Ken Morrison, the former chairman of Morrisons.

In fact, the move by Morrisons is similar to its signing of Mr Bolland, a former chief operating officer at Heineken, who was little-known in UK grocery circles before he took the helm at the UK's fourth biggest grocer in September 2006.

The appointment could break the deadlock over a release date for Mr Bolland to join M&S, which hired him in November. But yesterday M&S and Morrisons said there was "no update" on when he will join the high street bellwether. Earlier this month, Sir Stuart Rose, the M&S chairman, said he did not expect his successor to join "much before May".

Mr Philips, who enjoys rugby, running and flying, was the chief executive of Brown Thomas before joining Loblaw. He also held a range of positions at Wal-Mart's international division between 1998 and 2005, rising to chief operating officer in Germany before the world's biggest retailer exited the country. Mr Philips said: "It's [Morrisons] an incredibly exciting business with a terrific history and I'm really looking forward to meeting the team and to the challenge ahead."

Loblaw, which has more than 1,000 stores in Canada, has a turnover of £18bn and is a huge seller of general merchandise.