THE NEW chief executive of Morrisons has wielded the axe at the struggling grocer in what has been described as “a bloodbath in Bradford”.
Barely a week after joining the business, David Potts has disposed of the services of five directors on the 11-strong management team.
Morrisons said group customer marketing and digital director Nick Collard, group retail director Martyn Fletcher, group property and strategy director Gordon Mowat, group logistics director Neal Austin and convenience managing director Nigel Robertson are stepping down from the management board, which sits below the public limited company board, and will leave the company.
Mr Potts thanked the men for their service to the group and said he would be constructing a leaner management board “with the aim of simplifying and speeding up the business”.
Roger Owen, the former property director, welcomed the move as “a step in the right direction of getting back to basics - this is the first marker and good on him”.
He told The Yorkshire Post: “The thinning out of senior management is not surprising because under Dalton Philips it became top heavy with too many chiefs and not enough Indians.”
The management team has six remaining members - Mr Potts, chief financial officer Trevor Strain, company secretary Mark Amsden, group corporate services director Martyn Jones, group HR director Emily Lawson and group trading director Casper Meijer.
Morrisons is fighting to reverse falling sales, profits and market share after German discounters moved into the grocer’s northern heartlands as Mr Philips tried to modernise the business.
His five-year reign as chief executive was brought to an abrupt end by chairman Andy Higginson in January.
Mr Potts, a former Tesco executive like Mr Higginson, started work last Monday and has been quick to make changes, with one insider describing him as “a force of nature”.
“David’s in control, no doubt about that,” the person added.
Of the departing executives, Martyn Fletcher was the longest serving Morrisons employee.
He joined in 1985 under Sir Ken Morrison and became part of the management board in 2010. He is said to have been one of the few who challenged Mr Philips.
Neal Austin joined Morrisons in 2006 from MFI and became part of the management board in 2010.
Nigel Robertson joined as a non-executive director in 2005 before taking on various executive roles. He became part of the management board in 2013, as did Nick Collard, who joined the business from Boots in 2011.
Gordon Mowat joined Morrisons from management consultancy McKinsey as strategy director in 2011. He joined the management board in 2014.
In his first week, Mr Potts launched a campaign to receive customer and staff feedback, announced he would work in a store over Easter and encouraged other head office staff to do the same.
He also purchased Morrisons shares worth more than £1m.
Comment: The culling of five directors from the management board at Morrisons is all about creating a leaner and simpler business.
Under previous chief Dalton Philips, the management board swelled to 12 members. Critics claimed there was crossover in many of the directors’ responsibilities.
Morrisons said Ross Eggleton and Miles Foster will continue to lead logistics and its M local convenience chain respectively.
Andy Atkinson and Clare Grainger have been appointed to interim marketing and retail director respectively.
Commentators wondered if there is “a bus waiting in Cheshunt with a number of people on board” in reference to Tesco’s headquarters.