This will put Mr Strain, who is currently Morrisons’ chief financial officer, in pole position to take over from chief executive David Potts, who has led the turnaround of the Bradford-based grocer after he was parachuted in four years ago.
Analysts welcomed the news and Clive Black at Shore Capital called it an “important” and “positive” move.
“Mr Strain is a high-quality business executive in our view,” said Mr Black.
“He has been fundamentally key to the stabilisation and onward progression of Morrisons in recent years, noting his appointment as interim CEO ahead of Mr Potts joining the company
“At that time, Morrisons was a highly leveraged business with prospects that many equity analysts of the time had written off. Mr Strain was key, therefore, to the group’s evolution to today as a dynamic and positively developing business, one that has a very strong current financial constitution.”
Mr Strain joined Morrisons during a tough time for the supermarket, when it was under enormous pressure to sell its stores and hand money back to shareholders.
He also oversaw a difficult period as the supermarket suffered from the rapid rise of cheaper German rivals Aldi and Lidl. At the time, Morrisons was pursuing a strategy of higher-end products, expensive store overhauls and the notorious vegetable misting machines, which Mr Potts quietly disposed of.
Mr Strain’s new role will see him take over responsibility for commercial, manufacturing, supply chain, logistics, operations development, online and wholesale. It was not initially clear what his salary would be, but he took home £3.2m last year.
Mr Strain will give up his position as chief financial officer, handing over the reins to Michael Gleeson, in order to focus solely on the operational side of the business.
Mr Potts said: “These two appointments are a result of strong management development plans at Morrisons and I am delighted that we are promoting two highly capable colleagues from within the team.
“Trevor is a proven and outstanding business leader who has played a pivotal role in the ongoing Morrisons turnaround. Michael has extensive financial, commercial and retail experience, together with a first-class track record, and his appointment will further strengthen the executive team.”
The promotion is Mr Strain’s second in 13 months as the board prepares him for the top job. He joined Morrisons in 2009, was appointed chief financial officer in 2013 and assumed the additional responsibilities of group commercial director in October 2018.
Mr Gleeson will take home a basic salary of £490,000 - excluding any bonuses - which is lower than Mr Strain’s base pay of £622,000 in the role, although the latter was also commercial director prior to Wednesday’s promotion.
Mr Gleeson said: “This is an exciting time to take on this important role. There is still so much to do in our fix, rebuild, and grow turnaround and I look forward to playing my part.”
He is currently trading director responsible for ambient grocery, frozen, dairy, fuel and services and was at Tesco for 15 years.
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