Morrisons lines up three for CEO job

Wm Morrison has narrowed its search for its next chief executive down to three men but is still not confident of making its choice before its annual meeting next week.

Marc Bolland, the chief operating office of the Dutch brewer Heineken, and David Wild, a former Tesco executive who heads Wal-Mart's German supermarkets, are reported to have joined Ian Meakins, the outgoing chief executive of Alliance UniChem, on Morrisons' shortlist.

The Bradford-based supermarket chain needs to find a replacement for Bob Stott, the incumbent chief executive, who can work with Sir Ken Morrison, the founder and chairman, for at least the next 18 months. That could pose problems if the new boss and Sir Ken disagree about strategy.

Sir Ken, 74, is expected to outline his plans to shareholders at next week's meeting, although he has already insisted that he will stay on at the helm of the company started by his father to see through Morrisons' renaissance after its troubled integration of Safeway.

Although Sir Ken chairs the nominations committee, the group's independent directors have promised they will not just rubberstamp his decision. Once a chief executive is in place, David Jones, the deputy chairman who has masterminded Morrisons' corporate governance transformation, will step down. Before Mr Jones joined Morrisons' board as a non-executive director two years ago, Sir Ken had said he saw more value in paying supermarket checkout staff than independent directors.

Mr Wild would bring with him experience of running troubled supermarket operations. The Tesco veteran of 19 years joined Wal-Mart in 2004 and was made managing director of the US group's unprofitable German subsidiary last year.

Mr Meakins will be out of a job once Boots completes its merger with Alliance UniChem. Mr Bolland, who is Dutch, has worked for the brewer all his working life, joining its executive board last year.

Once Morrisons decides on Mr Stott's successor it will have to look for a deputy chairman. It is likely to choose someone who will replace Sir Ken.