‘They couldn’t run a school tuck shop’: Former director calls for clearout at Morrisons board

A former long-serving director at Morrisons has called for a clearout of the board after the struggling supermarket group announced the departure of its chief executive.

Roger Owen, pictured by James Hardisty

Roger Owen said the non-executive directors at the Bradford-based business have demonstrated “they are not capable of running a school tuck shop”.

Mr Owen’s comments came as Morrisons’ incoming chairman Andy Higginson announced the departure of CEO Dalton Philips and said a return to growth would be “best done under new leadership”.

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The group added that Mr Higginson would take over from the incumbent chairman Sir Ian Gibson six months earlier than planned.

Mr Owen told The Yorkshire Post: “It’s a decision that Ian Gibson should have made two and a half years ago when it was evident Dalton Philips was not the man for the job.

“I don’t have a personal problem with Ian Gibson. I think he’s a nice guy. But that does not excuse the fact that as chairman history will write him down as ineffective and ineffectual. He has presided over a spiral of decline together with the rest of the board.

“I hope this is the first step along the line of Andy Higginson replacing the rest of the board, which I am sure he will do in time.

“They have failed to take action against Dalton. Someone has come in who has the balls to do it. “It should have happened two and a half years ago. That will be to Ian Gibson and the rest of the board’s eternal shame.

“It’s a company that is very capable of coming again with the right management. I would hope that would be fairly quick.”

Mr Owen helped Sir Ken Morrison transform a family supermarket business into a £15bn retail giant. He served as group property director for 22 years until his retirement in 2009.

He criticised the group’s foray into convenience stores as “rushed” and questioned the profitability of home delivery.

Asked who should replace Mr Philips, Mr Owen said the company needs “a proper grocer” at its helm.

He said Morrisons should appoint an external candidate and sange the praises of Andy Clarke, the well-regarded chief executive of Asda, Morrisons’ Leeds-based rival.

Mr Owen said: “He’s been through the mill of retailing and knows what it’s about.”

He added: “He’s a retailer. He’s a store manager. He’s going to get to the roots of what’s going on in the stores and is not going to be coming up with fanciful ideas.”

He said the new CEO and chairman should be “challenged and supported by a new board of non-executive directors to replace the ones who quite clearly demonstrated that they are not capable of running a school tuck shop”.

The board’s non-executives are Philip Cox, who joined in 2009, Richard Gillingwater, who joined in 2013, Penny Hughes and Johanna Waterous, who both joined in 2010.

Morrisons, which has lost around a quarter of its stock market value over the last year, today reported a 3.1 per cent fall in like-for-like sales in the six weeks to January 4.