Blog: Dean BestSir Ken Morrison takes his bow

Dean Best | 14 March 2008

Business and sentiment are not natural bedfellows.

However, Sir Ken Morrison’s departure after 55 years at Morrisons, the UK’s fourth-largest retailer, has shown that there is room for some emotion in what is a fiercely competitive business.

Sir Ken has built Morrisons from a stall in the northern English city of Bradford to a multi-billion pound national retailer and one that is now again beginning to flex its muscles in UK grocery.

The 76-year-old faced some criticism after Morrisons struggled to digest its 2004 acquisition of UK rival Safeway but the company has recovered and in recent months has gained ground on rivals including Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s.

Morrisons chief executive Marc Bolland said Sir Ken is a “unique person” and praised his chairman’s role in building the business.

“The journey from a stall to a GBP13bn (US$26.3bn) company is a large step to make. Most people can make one or two steps but he managed the whole flight of stairs.”

For his part, Sir Ken said he planned to have “a little rest” in his first weeks of retirement. There is though little sign that he will take things completely easy.

“I’ve got a farm that struggles to make a living but it will be intriguing to see the other side of the fence,” Sir Ken said.

Even some of the more hard-nosed UK financial media broke into applause as Sir Ken left the podium. It’s unlikely his kind will be seen again.


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