// Former Morrisons CEO Marc Bolland urges bidders to respect the grocer’s heritage & supply chain
// Fortress expected to conduct a wide-ranging review if shareholders vote in favour of its £6.3bn takeover offer
// Morrisons shareholders are preparing for a crunch vote on Fortress’ offer on August 16
One of Morrisons’ former chief executives has come forward to urge suitors to respect the grocer’s heritage and supply chain if a proposed takeover bid were to succeed.
It comes shortly after reports that private equity firm Fortress is expected to conduct a wide-ranging review of the Big 4 giant if shareholders vote in favour of its £6.3 billion offer.
The US-based firm said it would conduct “a fuller evaluation of Morrisons and its operations and organisational structure” within the first six months of ownership.
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The review could include Morrisons’ property portfolio, although Fortress said it did not plan to sell a “material” number of stores.
According to The Sunday Times, Marc Bolland – who ran Morrisons from 2006 to 2009 – urged Fortress to “keep the Morrisons values” and protect its supply chain, which he said was “the best” in the UK.
“It has the freshest daily products — bakery, butchery, vegetables, fruit — in the country and I hope they keep that alive, because that is, for me, the lifeline,” Bolland said.
Bolland also believes the late Sir Ken Morrison, whose family retains a five per cent stake in the grocery giant, would not have been opposed to private equity ownership.
“They’re both very entrepreneurial,” Bolland told The Sunday Times.
“Ken was not a fan of boardrooms — he was a fan of entrepreneurship.”
Sir Ken took over his father William’s business in 1952 and built Morrisons to the Big 4 grocer it is today.
Bolland, who is also a former Marks & Spencer chief executive, reportedly still has links with the Morrison family and has been on shooting trips with them.
Morrisons shareholders are preparing for a crunch vote on Fortress’ offer on August 16.
The retailer’s board has already accepted its offer and recommended investors to vote in favour of it.
Fortress’ plans for a “fuller evaluation” could raise concerns among some Morrisons shareholders.
The takeover offer needs the approval of at least 75 per cent of shareholders for it to go through.
There is a chance Fortress’ offer be met with a rival bid from Clayton Dubilier & Rice (CD&R), which last week was given a deadline to table one or to walk away from the takeover battle.
The UK takeover panel said CD&R, another US-based private equity firm which had an original £5.5 billion approach rebuffed last month, has until 5pm on August 9 to make a firm offer on Morrisons.
It is understood that CD&R is working on a financial package to allow it to put forward a second bid for the retailer.
The new deadline for an offer is seven days before Morrisons shareholders will vote at a general meeting on the current Fortress-backed deal.
Apollo Management had initially been in the frame to compete in a three-way bidding war but decided to join forces with Fortress earlier this week.
Morrisons employs 110,000 people and has 497 stores.
Unlike its competitors, it directly owns much of its supply chain, which features 19 factories, including abattoirs and meat and fish processing plants.