GROCERY veteran Sir Ken Morrison has launched an astonishing attack on Morrisons' chief executive Dalton Philips, slamming the current strategy being pursued by the board as "bulls**t".
Sir Ken, who built up the Yorkshire-based grocer established by his father into a top four supermarket chain, lashed out at Mr Philips during a stormy annual general meeting at the firm's head office in Bradford.
Speaking after Mr Philips' presentation to investors, Sir Ken said he had been raising cattle since leaving work and added: "I have something like 1,000 bullocks and, having listened to your presentation, Dalton, you've got a lot more bulls**t than me."
Loading article content
"The results were described by the chairman and chief executive as "disappointing. I personally thought they were disastrous."
Sir Ken's outburst reflects a profound difference in opinion between the Morrison family, who hold a 10 per cent stake in the supermarket chain, and its current management over strategy.
Morrisons, which reported a £176m annual loss in March and followed that with a 7.1 per cent slump in first quarter sales, has been roundly criticised for being slow to develop an online shopping offer and entering the convenience store market.
The company said yesterday that it aimed to be covering 40 per cent of households with its online offer by the end of the year, though did not indicate when it would go live in Scotland.
The dispute with Sir Ken is understood to stem from the Morrison family's desire for the company to focus on its core supermarket business, and the board's desire to build its business online and in the convenience store format.
A spokesman said: "What we saw today was a disagreement between Sir Ken and the current management over strategy. The management of Morrisons are absolutely behind making sure that Morrisons' customers can shop online, in Morrisons convenience stores and that we have got 21st century systems that make sure we can launch, for example, a loyalty card later this year.
"That's the direction we are taking the company in, we think it's the right direction."
While the voting results of the AGM had not been confirmed last night, a source signalled that the institutional investors had supported the re-election of the chief executive and chairman Sir Ian Gibson.
The company announced that Sir Ian will not seek re-election at next year's annual general meeting.
He is now entering his eighth term as chairman of the Morrisons board.
Shares in Morrisons closed down 1.30p or 0.67 per cent at 129.50p.