John Dowd, managing director of Wm Morrison Supermarkets, will be absent from the business for a number of months, the company’s board revealed earlier today [Tuesday].

A statement explained that Dowd would be undergoing major surgery and will take the time to recuperate. The company said that news of Dowd’s treatment was “sudden” and “unexpected”.

Plans are in place to cover Dowd’s responsibilities, the company said, and in the short term, Chairman Sir Kenneth Morrison will also re-assume the role of MD. Morrison held this position between 1956 and 1997.