Darren Blackhurst is emerging as the most obvious internal candidate to replace David Cheesewright as Asda's chief operations officer.

Blackhurst joined Asda's executive board as food trading director in January 2006 from Tesco, where he was commercial director for Tesco Thailand.

"Blackhurst would be the most logical internal candidate, but if Andy Bond was a careful man he would be appointing people to look externally," said one expert.

Other names put forward by recruitment specialists include Tesco commercial directors Caroline Bradley and Steve Ager; ex-Safeway commercial director John Durkan, who is COO of The Carphone Warehouse; and Somerfield's Colin Smith.

One Asda insider said chief executive Andy Bond would take his time over finding Cheesewright's successor. "We've got a really strong executive team and Andy is not in any hurry to replace Dave. It could be six months before he makes that appointment," he said.