Morrisons owner paves way for departure of veteran CEO Potts

Business

The owners of Britain’s fourth-biggest supermarket chain are drawing up plans to identify a new chief executive a year after acquiring it in a £7bn deal.

Sky News has learnt that Morrisons‘ controlling shareholder, the US-based private equity firm Clayton Dubilier & Rice (CD&R), has retained Egon Zehnder International to strengthen the grocer’s executive ranks.

Retail industry sources said this weekend that Egon Zehnder had been approaching potential recruits “with one eye” on finding a successor to David Potts, who has run Morrisons since 2015.

Mr Potts is not expected to leave until at least 2024, and is focused on improving the Bradford-based company’s performance after it was recently displaced as Britain’s third-biggest supermarket chain by the German discounter Aldi.

A number of internal candidates are expected to vie for the opportunity of replacing Mr Potts, according to insiders.

One said that CD&R was “continuously” working on succession planning at Morrisons and its other portfolio companies.

Sir Terry Leahy, the former Tesco chief executive who has a long-standing relationship with CD&R, will play a key role in the succession planning process as Morrisons’ chairman.

More on Morrisons

Earlier this year, Trevor Strain, Morrisons’ chief operating officer and previously its finance chief, left the company, having long been regarded as Mr Potts’ inevitable successor.

Morrisons delisted from the London Stock Exchange last year, ending a 54-year run as a publicly traded company.

Recent industry data showed that Morrisons had been usurped by Aldi in market share terms – a milestone in a sector which rarely demonstrates change in the membership of its top ranks.

Morrisons struck a deal earlier this year to rescue the convenience chain McColl’s, the market share of which was not included in that data.

CD&R and Morrisons declined to comment.

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