Morrisons boss says £7bn takeover is good for Morrisons, good for colleagues and good for Yorkshire

The CEO of Morrisons has said that the £7.1bn takeover by US private equity firm CD&R is good for Morrisons, good for colleagues and good for Yorkshire.

David Potts said that CD&R will be good custodians of the grocery giant and the jobs of his 110,000 colleagues are safe.

In an exclusive interview with The Yorkshire Post, Mr Potts said: "CD&R are fully committed to Morrisons. I think we are in a good place with a strong franchise with consumers and an important job to do for Britain as a nation around food. We've got owners who believe in that story.

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"All our existing rights are transferred to the new owner. All of our pension arrangements and all of our contractual arrangements are as was.

David Potts, chief executive of Morrisons

"Clearly, we have to work hard on behalf of consumers, suppliers, colleagues, the environment and our shareholder to get growth.

"But yes, colleagues are safe."

CD&R has promised that Morrisons' head office will remain in Bradford and there are no plans to sell the freehold store estate. It is also "fully supportive" of a minimum pay award of £10 an hour and it has reached a deal with pension trustees to provide more support.

Mr Potts also said that he has no intention of leaving.

Asked where he will be in a year's time, he said: "I very much hope to still be working at Morrisons as chief executive."

He said there are no signs that consumers are worried about the takeover.

"We haven't picked up any concerns," he said.

"In the research we do every week, it's more about how concerned they are about Covid. In the last couple of weeks, consumers have started to buy more face covers."

Mr Potts said the firm kept disruption to a minimum during the bidding war. CD&R's 287p a share bid narrowly beat the 286p Fortress offer.

Mr Pott said: "It's over now. At the time, it was a very tight group of people involved and the business wasn't distracted.

"Regardless of what's been happening over the years - Brexit, Sainsbury's attempt to buy Asda and the bids for Morrisons - we've not been distracted.

"Our colleagues are asking: 'How would CD&R approach manufacturing? What would investment from CD&R look like? Would our rights be protected?'.

"We could be fulsome in reassuring them. CD&R are here to manage their investment. They're here to manage the business."

Asked whether he thought CD&R would be good custodians, Mr Potts said: "Yes I do. They've got experience in the industry. They conducted themselves professionally during the bidding.

"Morrisons won't be pulled about by loads of people. It's more getting our two models to work, figuring out how our futures look, deciding which projects to work on and then figuring out how we're going to work together."

Mr Potts pointed out that former CEO, Sir Ken Morrison, ran Morrisons when it was private and when it floated in 1967.

"Ken's mantra to me was 'traditional values, modern methods'," said Mr Potts.

"It was less about what financial framework - single shareholder versus multiple shareholders - I'm sure he'd realise that there are pros and cons to both.

"It was more about the people and the things that made Morrisons great, that made it grow and made it popular with consumers. Those things would clearly be continually updated, ie, modern methods, but the traditional values, Ken would be on the lookout to make sure they were protected.

"We've achieved a very good premium for shareholders. CD&R are paying that. One of the things they like about the business is its distinctive position with consumers, that it manufactures a considerable amount of food and it's British farming's biggest direct customer."

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