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What you need to know about Morrisons' new CEO

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Morrisons has announced Tesco veteran David Potts as its new CEO, replacing recently ousted boss Dalton Philips. Potts has been appointed following a “thorough selection process, both in the UK and overseas” and will join the Company on 16 March 2015.

The new chief exec comes from a position of strength, having spent over 40 years in grocery retailing. He has good relationships with Morrisons’ interim CEO Trevor Strain and the grocer’s Chairman Andrew Higginson, having worked alongside them at Tesco for many years.

“I am delighted to welcome David as our new CEO,” Higginson said. “David is the best retailer I have worked with in 25 years in the industry. Having worked alongside him for 15 years, I know he will bring to Morrisons a focus on the customer, a track record of delivery, flair, talent, and immense energy to his new role. He will lead our colleagues in the business from the front, and with distinction.”

He continues: “David’s skills are complementary to those of our excellent CFO, Trevor Strain, and I believe we have the makings of a good team. I would like to thank Trevor for his support over the last few weeks.”

Potts added: “Customers and Morrisons are a great combination to serve. This is a great British business with real potential and it is an honour to have been selected.”

Much like former Tesco CEOs Sir Terry Leahy and Philip Clark, Potts began his career at Britain’s largest supermarket chain as a shelf stacker, aged 16.

Prior to this, the retail heavyweight worked in a local fruit and veg shop (cash-in-hand) where he came to know every product in detail and learnt how to add up very quickly. He enjoyed it because he liked meeting customers and handling produce. It was his Aunt who helped him secure this job and some might say she set him up for retail there.

Before long, Potts realised he had a talent for making food look so appealing that customers would want to buy it.

“You have to sell things so they look proud to be in the case they’re in – I used to show grapefruit with newspaper underneath them, or cut one in half so people could see it was juicy and a different colour to the skin. People buy with their eyes” he has been quoted saying.

Before long he joined Tesco, Ashton under Lyne, for a summer job while he waited for his O-level results - which arrived as a sheet of paper with five Fs. At night he studied at Tameside College to get his core English and Maths O-levels and on day release from Tesco he studied for a diploma in retailing.

By 1981, Potts became Tesco’s youngest ever superstore manager when he was posted to Ryde on the Isle of Wight. He then went on to direct the integration of Tesco PLC’s businesses in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland before returning to the UK as Director responsible for UK Retail Operations. Following this he served as an Executive Director of Tesco (from 1998 – 2011) and as Chief Executive of the Asian Business. This experience, coupled with the responsibility of the UK supply chain, which came into his responsibilities in 2000, gives Potts a competitive advantage.

Clive Black, an analyst at Shore Capital comments:

“We believe that David Potts’ expertise on the UK market made him the prime candidate for the role and it is not a surprise to our minds that he has been appointed. We believe that he will bring focus and pace to Morrisons, a business where in tandem with Higginson and Strain we view the current strategy as being correct, but the execution in particular needs correction.”

Published on Wednesday 25 February by Veebs Sabharwal

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