England

Morrisons boss blasted by ex-chairman Sir Ken Morrison

Store Image copyright Morrisons

The head of the struggling supermarket chain Morrisons has come under extraordinary public attack from its ex-chairman, Sir Ken Morrison, at its annual shareholders' meeting.

Dalton Philips was told by Sir Ken, who left the business in 2008, that his plan for the chain was akin to the manure produced by his herd of cattle.

Morrisons lost £176m last year as customers moved to discount chains.

Mr Philips is cutting prices and has only just begun to offer online sales.

He is investing £1bn in price cuts over three years and plans to open 200 discount stores, following in the footsteps of other leading supermarkets.

He told the shareholders that the recent performance, which also saw a 7.1% fall in sales, was "disappointing".

1,000 bullocks

Sir Ken, who is known for his forthright turn of phrase, used strong language while addressing shareholders.

He said: "The results were described by the chairman and chief executive as 'disappointing'. I personally thought they were disastrous.

"When I left work and started working as a hobby, I chose to raise cattle. I have something like 1,000 bullocks and, having listened to your presentation, Dalton, you've got a lot more bullshit than me."

Sir Ken said he had previously warned in 2009 and 2012 that changes being implemented by directors would seriously damage the business - and that the latest results proved him right.

Mr Philips' strategy is in marked contrast to the way the 55-year-old business had been run under Sir Ken, who is the son of the founder of the Bradford-based chain.

Last year Mr Philips said that when he took over four years ago the business had still been using pen-and-paper methods to check stock. Parts of the business had been 20 years behind rivals, he added, with cash still being counted manually in stores at close of business.

Also at the meeting, the chairman, Sir Ian Gibson, said he would "not be seeking re-election at next year's annual general meeting".

'Smooth transition'

Referring to Sir Ian's decision, the company said in a statement: "The board will conduct an orderly process to appoint a successor.

"The board welcomes Sir Ian's continuing support as it implements its strategy. Further announcements will be made as appropriate."

Sir Ian said: "This term will take me into my eighth year on Wm Morrisons board, and this announcement gives the board time to conduct an orderly search for a new chairman and ensure a smooth transition."

In early May, managing director of retail analysts Conlumino, Neil Saunders, described the latest Morrisons figures as "woeful" and said they represented "an alarming deterioration in trade".

"The game now is one of market share stealing: any player that wants to grow has to take share from another," he said.

"Unfortunately, in this 'zero-sum game' Morrisons is a clear loser and is ceding share not only to the deep discounters but also to the other big four players."

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