Bill Wavish, widely touted as the next head of Australian supermarket group Woolworths, has announced he will step down as a director, leaving industry pundits scratching their heads as to who will succeed Roger Corbett as Chief Executive Officer.

Wavish, 54, was appointed to oversee the group’s supermarket division mid-2002 after an impressive three-year term as group CFO. He had been expected by many analysts to pick up the reins from Corbett, 60, as early as next year. Chairman James Strong told Dow Jones Newswire that a decision will be made in the near future, “and that the role may revert back to Corbett”.

Wavish will remain involved with Woolworths as a consultant until August 2004, but said in a statement released by the company that he was looking to “continue to actively contribute to further success at Woolworths in a more flexible role which suits my personal plans”.