Sir Ken to quit Morrisons in 2008

He hopes the timetable will give him scope to nurse his family company back to health after recent signs that trading has picked up and the group has stopped ceding market share. "That's a reasonable estimate," Sir Ken said, "but not a forecast."

As if to underline his continuing grip on the business, the 74-year-old Yorkshireman, who has chaired the group since it floated in 1967, admitted that if the problems of running a bigger group persisted, there was a "possibility" he would change his mind. In any event, he will take on the title of life president when he does finally leave, as Lord Kalms did when he retired from Dixons, now DSG International.

Morrisons set itself a firm three-week deadline to appoint a new chief executive yesterday but said an announcement could come within a fortnight. Marc Bolland, Heineken's chief operating officer, and Ian Meakins, who runs Alliance UniChem, are thought to be the preferred candidates. David Wild, who heads Wal-Mart's German business, is also understood to be on the shortlist.

Once the decision has been made, David Jones, the former Next chairman, will retire as Sir Ken's deputy, having completed his quest to overhaul the group's corporate governance.

The City is agog to see what elements of Sir Ken's reign his successor will rip up, but the executive chairman made it clear that the incomer would not have an automatic carte blanche to make radical changes. "I would certainly spend a bit of time with him on it [the new strategy]," Sir Ken said.

Nigel Robertson, one of the four non-executives voted on to the board at yesterday's annual meeting, said: "It would be a mistake to tear up the culture."

After updating shareholders about the business and thanking Bob Stott, who will leave four weeks after the new chief executive joins, Sir Ken cut short attempts to pay tribute to his chairmanship. He let just one of the 300-odd private investors who had flocked to the hotel on the Bradford ring road laud his tenure.

Speaking afterwards, John Wingfield, an ex-Morrisons employee, said: "That's his way. He's very private." Sid Senior, a former Morrisons area manager, said: "At the end of the day the man is an icon of the retailing world."

Sir Ken said the search for his eventual successor would start "fairly immediately" but declined to be drawn on whether he would appoint headhunters. He professed not to know what he would do as life president but added: "Be a nuisance. Does that sound reasonable?" Beyond that, he said he hoped some "hard labour" would help his small family farm to turn a "marginal profit". And since old habits die hard, he predicted he would not stop "polishing produce" as he traipsed round stores. Even competitors. "Voluntary work helping JS [J Sainsbury's]!"

In a trading update, the company said like-for-like sales for the 16 weeks to 21 May had risen by 3.7 per cent excluding fuel, beating forecasts. Total sales excluding fuel rose 5.5 per cent after accounting for the stores it had sold. The group, which this time last year was forced to confess it had no clue about the true state of its finances, said it was comfortable with profit expectations in the market. Shares in Morrisons, which have proved remarkably resilient, closed 5p higher at 194.75p.

The challenge of finding sites and distractions from integrating Safeway meant Morrisons would open only four new stores this year, against its target of eight to 10, Mr Stott said.

Joining in the debate raging on healthy eating, Morrisons said it would follow Tesco's lead in putting "guideline daily amount" labelling on the front of all its packs, starting next month. Its decision is another blow for the Food Standards Agency, which had wanted to see all supermarkets adopt the red, amber and green traffic light guidance used by Sainsbury's.

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind-the-scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
News
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

SAS Business Analyst - Credit Risk - Retail Banking

£450 - £500 per day: Orgtel: SAS Business Analyst, London, Banking, Credit Ris...

Project Manager - Pensions

£32000 - £38000 Per Annum Bonus, Life Insurance + Other Benefits: Clearwater P...

KYC Analyst, Birmingham - £200-£250 p/d

£200 - £250 per day + competitive: Orgtel: KYC Analyst, Key Banking Client, Bi...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone