In and out: who’s who in chairman Andy Higginson’s new board at Morrisons

MORRISONS has added the chief executive of the Post Office as a non-executive director, the latest move by chairman Andrew Higginson to refresh the board at the struggling Bradford grocer.
Andy Higginson, pictured by Tony JohnsonAndy Higginson, pictured by Tony Johnson
Andy Higginson, pictured by Tony Johnson

Paula Vennells, a former commercial director at Whitbread who started her career at Unilever and L’Oreal, will join the business in January.

Joanna Waterous, a non-executive director for six years and chair of the remuneration committee, will stand down at the end of the financial year.

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Mr Higginson has overseen a major revamp of the board with the appointments of retail heavyweights Irwin Lee, Belinda Richards and Neil Davidson and the departure of Philip Cox, Penny Hughes and Richard Gillingwater.

Analysts welcome yesterday’s announcement. Clive Black, of house broker Shore Capital, said: “All organisations need strong and sound stewardship. In this respect, the work undertaken by Andrew Higginson to engineer significant change in the overall board composition, culture and capability of Morrisons and at pace augurs well to our minds.

“As such the business now has a board in place that can be totally focused upon the day job of returning this once great company to the best of the past in a thoroughly modern context.”

Former property director Roger Owen told The Yorkshire Post earlier this year that the previous board under former chairman Sir Ian Gibson demonstrated that “they are not capable of running a school tuck shop”.

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Mr Higginson said: “I am delighted to welcome Paula to the board. Her experience of restructuring and rebuilding a retail operation at the Post Office, her background in fast-moving consumer goods and her experience as a serving CEO will all be invaluable to the board going forward.”

Ms Vennells said she was delighted to join the board to help contribute to the turnaround of Morrisons.

The company’s share price has lost nearly half its value over the last two years as it battles falling sales, profits and market share.

Refreshing the board: a summary of Mr Higginson’s changes:

IN: Paula Vennells, chief executive of the Post Office, a role she has held since April 2012. She joined the Post Office in 2007. Previously Ms Vennells was group commercial director of Whitbread having started her career with Unilever and L’Oreal. She has also held directorships in sales and marketing with a number of major retailers including Dixons Stores Group and Argos.

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OUT: After six years as a non-executive director, Johanna Waterous announced her intention to step down from the board at the end of the financial year, January 2016. Irwin Lee will succeed her as chair of the remuneration committee.

IN: In September, Morrisons announced the appointment of Neil Davidson, who has had an extensive career in food manufacturing, starting with Northern Foods where he rose to become managing director of its milk division. He subsequently became CEO of Express Dairies and then Arla Foods UK, both suppliers to Morrisons. He has also been a non-executive director of Persimmon and Northern Recruitment Group.

OUT: After six years on the board, Penny Hughes decided to stand down at the end of the calendar year as a natural part of planned board succession. Mr Davidson succeeded her as chair of the corporate compliance and responsibility committee.

IN: In July, Morrisons announced the appointment of Belinda Richards as a non-executive director and chair of the Audit Committee. She has worked in professional services for more than 25 years, where she operated as a senior adviser in corporate finance and strategy. She has extensive experience of challenging and complex restructurings, mergers and turnarounds.

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OUT: After six and a half years on the board, Philip Cox decided to stand down at the end of this calendar year as a natural part of planned board succession.

IN: Earlier in July, Morrisons appointed Irwin Lee as a non-executive director. He was previously vce president and managing director of Procter & Gamble Northern Europe.

OUT: In March, Richard Gillingwater told the board he did not intend to seek re-election as a non-executive director following notice of his appointment as chairman elect of SSE.