The appointment of Marc Bolland as Marks and Spencer’s new CEO ends the retailer’s 20-month search for a chief executive to replace Sir Stuart Rose.

Bolland joins from rival UK supermarket group Morrisons where he was chief executive. He will take up his position in the New Year at a time and on terms, M&S said today (18 November), to be confirmed.

Beating a number of internal candidates to the role – namely head of food John Dixon, finance director Ian Dyson and clothing and homewares chief Kate Bostock – Bolland has been credited with delivering a successful turnaround at Morrisons during his three years in charge.

The Dutchman clocked up two decades with Heineken before moving to Morrisons as chief executive in 2006.

Born in Apeldoorn in the Netherlands, Bolland joined Heineken in 1987 as a management trainee before rising to the post of COO and executive board member, as well as taking on responsibility for brand and marketing strategy at the Dutch brewery.

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During his time with the brewer, Bolland has been credited with turning around a former state-owned brewery business in the east of the Czech republic. He has also worked in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Slovakia.

After almost two decades with Heineken, Bolland joined Morrisons – an appointment that many in the retail and analyst sector were unsure about due to his lack of retail experience.

However, in the three years that followed, Bolland embarked on a transformation of the business, turning out a 45% lift in half-yearly profits to GBP449m (US$753m), with like-for-like sales from existing stores increasing 7.8%.

Morrisons now has 11.6% share of the grocery spend in the UK, according to industry data from TNS.

Since his time at Morrisons, Bolland has ditched the black and yellow corporate colour scheme for a more ethical looking green and yellow scheme.

In December, the Dutchman also snapped up 38 Co-operative and Somerfield stores, opening 19 of the outlets during the first half of the year adding 5% to the size of the business.

Rose said he is “delighted” that Bolland is to be M&S’s next chief executive, bringing with him “a wealth of consumer marketing experience”.

“We very much look forward to welcoming him and working together,” he added.

Rose will continue as a part-time chairman of M&S after Bolland is installed to ensure “a smooth transition”. He is expected to step down from the chairmanship by the summer of 2011.

Bolland joins Marks and Spencer as the retail bellwether shows signs of improvement from recent poor performances.

Sales in the half-year to 26 September rose 3% to reach GBP4.3bn (US$7.1bn).

Profit before tax and one-off items edged up to GBP298.3m from GBP297.8m in the previous year.

Bolland will have work to do with the retailers’ food division, however, which accounts for almost half of the business.

For the 26-week period food sales were up 1.8%. However market share declined from 3.7% to 3.5% and like-for-like sales dropped 0.3%.

Nonetheless, with food retail his main area of expertise, Bolland is certainly one of the best qualified for the role.