The end for David Simons came early on the morning of the last Wednesday in March at a Somerfield board meeting. With the company's share price in freefall, Simons was aware that his time as ceo was coming to an end, and the week before had been privately telling friends that he would get the chop. Nevertheless, when the final blow was delivered it must still have been a shock for a man who claims to have invested years of "blood, sweat and tears" in Somerfield. Simons understands why he had to go and says he has no complaints. But he adds: "I was sorry to leave because I have an enormous affection for the business and the people in it. I was so closely identified with what happened over the last seven years that I would be lying if I did not say there's still a part of me within that business." On the day it sacked Simons, Somerfield announced it had ended the takeover talks it had been holding with venture capital groups. The suitors then asked Simons if he would front a possible bid for his former employer. "Immediately after I left ­ literally the same day ­ I was asked by merchant bankers to think about continuing the public to private discussions. For obvious reasons I did not dismiss this out of hand. I spent a few days with potential backers, took enormous amounts of advice and spoke to lots of people in the industry. Eventually I came to the conclusion that it was not something I should do." Simons now tries to play down the significance of these discussions, saying "the whole thing got blown out of proportion". He says he offered help and advice for a few more weeks, but was always clear he was not going to get any more involved than that. Yet when Simons took potential investors around some Somerfield stores, he admits "people got leery that I was coming back" although he insists he had already decided to "get on with my own life". His life now revolves around a business incubator-cum-consultancy called Egremont which, among other things, will be helping bricks retailers set up a clicks operation. A fitting venture for someone who has long been convinced about the potential for e-commerce. Today, the legacy of the Simons' era is that Somerfield is struggling to repair the damage caused by what even he now admits was the mistaken acquisition of Kwik Save. But that mistake has also proved costly for Simons, who lost a job he clearly loved and saw a personal fortune of more than £10m disappear when the Somerfield share price collapsed. "At the time of the flotation I bought a lot of shares, and with cash. I enjoyed what happened to the share price when it went from £1.45 through to £4.80. And on paper it was worth a lot of money. I didn't sell a single share at the time. So when the shares collapsed my own wealth collapsed with them." {{COVER FEATURE }}