Clive Beddall Charismatic Asda chief executive Allan Leighton is tipped to take a leading role in a takeover bid for troubled Marks & Spencer. Leighton, 45, the man who brokered the £6.7bn deal which saw Wal-Mart buy Asda last June, is seen by investment banks attempting to put together takeover bids for either M&S or Sainsbury as the "ideal candidate" to lead M&S after a successful bid. In December, retailing entrepreneur Philip Green revealed to the takeover panel that he was considering a bid for M&S and Leighton's name is being touted in City circles as the "ideal man" to be involved in a Green bid for what is dubbed "Britain's last great institution". Analysts believe that, despite Green's undoubted business skills, he would need a powerful figure with proven retail management skills to head M&S. While it is understood informal contacts have been made with Leighton, none of the parties were commenting this week. Although close associates believe the challenge of a move into Baker Street would be highly tempting for the energetic Asda boss, his departure would set the alarm bells ringing at Wal-Mart's Bentonville headquarters. Only last month he was given the additional responsibility of president and CEO of Wal-Mart Europe where the US giant owns 95 former Wertkauf and Interspar stores. However, a retailing figure close to Leighton said on Thursday: "Allan could soon be facing the biggest decision of his retailing life. But if anyone could restore M&S's fortunes, he could." Meanwhile, M&S is still searching for a successor to chairman Sir Richard Greenbury, who took early retirement last summer. A company spokesman said a decision on a successor would be made "in the near future, when we have found the right candidate". But as it enters the new year, M&S is bracing itself for another shock next Wednesday when it releases its Christmas trading statement to the City. Many analysts expect the company to announce a double digit drop in like for like sales figures from last year, continuing a long and painful fall from grace. In an attempt to stop the fall, M&S has reshuffled its management team and split the group into seven business units. The move is an attempt to improve its customer focus. Barry Morris, formerly head of the food division, has been put in charge of women's wear retail, returning to a sector described as his "former area of expertise". He has been replaced by Roger Whiteside, who takes over the day to day running of the food division, reporting to chief executive Peter Salsbury. {{NEWS }}