He may not be the bookies' favourite, but Dave Cheesewright is The Grocer's tip to take over at Asda following Andy Bond's shock decision to step down as chief executive this week.

Cheesewright is understood to have been identified by Walmart as an eventual successor to Bond a number of years ago.

Some industry experts have even suggested the reason he left his position of chief operating officer at Asda, at the end of 2008 to become president and CEO of Walmart Canada was as a stepping stone to the top job at Asda.

Despite the Canadian business being less than half the size of Asda it had given him the necessary experience at the top to facilitate a return to Leeds, they claimed.

Financial spread betting experts Cantor Index have installed COO Andy Clarke, who succeeded Cheesewright at Asda, as favourite at even money, followed by FD Judith McKenna at 2/1 and Morrisons finance director Richard Pennycook at 9/2. Pennycook, along with McKenna, was highly tipped to replace Marc Bolland at Morrisons. The other leading Asda candidate, Rick Bendel, is at 9/1.

Cantor gives Cheesewright odds of 7/1 the same as chief merchandising officer Darren Blackhurst but his is the name on everyone's lips in the grocery industry.

"For me, it has to be Cheesewright," said one leading retail director, who formerly worked at Asda. Another senior Asda source recently revealed to The Grocer that Cheesewright would be the most likely candidate to replace Bond, should he ever move on.

He certainly has the track record at Asda that would equip him to meet the challenges that lie ahead for Asda. He was parachuted into Asda in 2005 when the retailer was losing market share and missing its internal targets.

Over the next two years, Bond and Cheesewright successfully turned this around and Asda was the fastest-growing retailer of the big four when he announced his move to Canada.

Now, despite having a record performance in 2009, Asda had the slowest Christmas sales growth of the big four at just 2.1% and has struggled since.

Bond's last major task in his current role was to outline a raft of new growth plans to investors and analysts this week.

The retailer gave more details on its plans to open smaller supermarkets. It has set itself a target of 100 smaller stores up from the 25 it currently operates. It also plans to increase the number of its non-food Living stores from 24 to 150.

Read more
It’s the end of an era at Asda - but the beginning of what? (17 April 2010)
Asda lays out design for Living (16 April 2010)