CEO of the year: Marc Bolland WM Morrison Supermarkets

marcbollandMorrisons’ chief executive Marc Bolland joined the company from Heineken in September 2006 and, in his first year, Morrisons’ profit margins were better than Sainsbury’s and its shares were up 24%.

The company had suffered from a somewhat dowdy image and had experienced difficulty integrating the Safeway business, but under Bolland’s stewardship, the business made great progress.

Morrisons is the UK’s northern based, fourth-largest food retailer, which did not move out of its heartland, thanks in part to Sir Ken Morrison’s disdain for all things Southern. Bolland, a Dutchman who began his career working in the Congo and Slovakia for Heineken, has a different management style from Sir Ken’s, but the two got on famously, lunching together on fish and chips in the staff canteen every Friday.

Bolland revamped the store layout to highlight this strength and brought in over 4,000 new lines to reflect the growing demand for ready meals and up-market foods. He has also implemented a better advertising campaign.

Bolland remains a believer that Morrisons needs evolution rather than a revolution, and that its unusual model, including having its own abattoirs and preparing vast amounts of fresh food from scratch in store, is a key strength. He rejects the criticism that he lacks the expertise to run a supermarket chain, having spent his career at Heineken with a focus on marketing, asserting that he is “a fast-moving, consumer-goods guy”.

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