Shareholders grill Morrisons

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Sir Ken Morrison urged shareholders to be patient as Morrisons’ new leadership look to change the company’s fortunes.

The grocer’s lifetime president backed recently-appointed chief executive David Potts and chairman Andrew Higginson at yesterday’s annual general meeting.

Sir Ken, 83, told the meeting: “I’ve personally met both of them and I’m assured by their stated intention to restore the company to its glory days.”

While the West Yorkshire-based retailer has struggled in recent years and saw a £792m loss in 2014, it was previously “a fast-growing, vigorous organisation, respected by staff, suppliers and customers alike”, he said.

“It’s a big job to restore the company’s fortunes,” he said.

“Please be patient and allow the new management some breathing space.”

Since taking charge 11 weeks ago, CEO David Potts has worked to focus to the needs of customers.

More than half of the executive committee has been dismissed and 720 head office staff axed. An additional 5,000 jobs are set to be created in store.

Mr Potts told shareholders: “My first priority is the shops and our customers. In my view, we need to listen, and listen hard.”

Shareholders raised a number of issues with the board including concerns about empty shelves in store.

Executive pay was also an issue, with some people questioning the £1m bonus paid to former chief executive Dalton Philips after he left the business earlier this year. More than a third of shareholders who voted by proxy rejected Morrisons’ executive pay proposals.

Mr Higginson said the company would review its policy, but it may be difficult to meet the “fragmented” concerns of shareholders over pay.