Pressure is mounting for Morrisons' chief executive, Marc Bolland, to leave the company as soon as possible following the news that he has landed the top job at Marks & Spencer. He was chosen because of his experience of food retailing and his expertise in building international brands, learned during his 19 years at Heineken.
The revelation on television last Wednesday that Mr Bolland was joining M&S, which came the day before Morrisons interim management statement, has angered and embarrassed the board, which is closeted in meetings this weekend to consider the way forward.
Mr Bolland is expected to be asked to leave in the near future.
Shareholders, who saw 5 per cent wiped off the value of their investment in Morrisons' shares on Wednesday, also believe their erstwhile hero should go immediately. Investors in Morrisons have done well as the share price rose from 230p to 298p, collapsing to 276p on Friday.
"There is a conflict of interest with the food businesses even though the two companies are in different segments of the market," said one. "But it is impractical for [Bolland] to head Morrisons now he has agreed to join M&S in the New Year."
Marks & Spencer directors are thought to have been embarrassed at the way the news emerged. M&S non-executive director Jeremy Darroch is a director of BSkyB.
The Morrisons board is in the process of appointing head-hunters to look for a new chief executive. Directors are thought to believe that an experienced retailer is necessary to lead the company, even though the finance director, Richard Pennycook, is highly respected and credited with much of the groundwork in reviving Morrisons' fortunes. "They need a top-flight retailer," said one analyst.
Former Asda executives who came up under Archie Norman, such as Richard Baker, currently involved in the private equity approach for Matalan; Andy Bond, now heading Asda; and Paul Mason, who until March headed Somerfield, are all thought to be in the frame. Morrison's chairman, Sir Ian Gibson, was formerly deputy chairman of Asda.