But the biggest saga was revealed by The Grocer in July. Visits to six stores found poor availability in basics including tobacco and bread, according to a survey by Storecheck Marketing. The company's store managers pointed the finger of blame at a drastic reduction in range following the takeover.
Villars held his hands up and vowed to begin turning the situation around.
A follow-up Storecheck survey showed that availability had indeed improved, but not in time to save Villars.
If his departure was a surprise, the purchase of 45 more stores and the clinching of a £30m refinancing package puzzled observers further. Last month, new evidence from The Grocer 33 shoppers visiting three stores indicated some improvement in availability and breadth of range, representing a ray of hope as Christmas approached.
However, store managers were still expressing concerns about availablity and plummeting sales have seen market share fall to 0.2% (from 1.6%).
And there were fresh rumours the chain might be taken over again - by a mystery group investing a further £30m.