FORMER Tesco chief financial officer Andrew Higginson has taken the chairmanship of Morrisons early after the retailer sacked its chief executive Dalton Phillips following a plunge in Christmas sales.
Higginson, who was appointed as chairman elect in July to take over in 2015, will assume full responsibilities later this month when he succeeds Sir Ian Gibson.
The UK’s fourth-largest supermarket has been squeezed between discount rivals Aldi and Lidl and premium stores such as Waitrose and has been slow to expand into online shopping and convenience stores.
Phillips’ departure comes after the supermarket reported the worst Christmas trading performance of the UK’s major supermarkets, with like-for-like sales, excluding fuel, dropping 3.1% in the six weeks to 4 January. Philips will stand down at the time of the supermarket’s next financial results in March.
Higginson said: “We need to return the business to growth. The board believes this is best done under new leadership.”
Shares in Morrison were up 5.6% following the news, having slumped 25% over the last 12 months.
“Harsh though it may sound, we would expect the share price to outperform on the back of the CEO change … as it may herald a more aggressive approach from management,” Barclays analysts told Reuters.
Higginson spent some 15 years at Tesco before being overlooked for the top job, prompting a portfolio career taking in non-executive roles at the Rugby Football Union, BSkyB and McCurrach as well as non-executive chairmanships and N Brown – the fashion business behind Jacamo – and latterly Poundland.