Speculation about the identity of the next Morrisons CEO is heightening with Alliance UniChem chief executive Ian Meakins emerging as a frontrunner for the post.

Betting firm Cantor Index has revisited its odds on who will be Bob Stott's successor, first published two weeks ago (The Grocer, April 29, p36). Tesco convenience CEO Colin Holmes remains favourite - with his odds shortening from 9/4 to 7/4 - but Meakins is now joint-favourite at 7/4. Alliance UniChem is merging with Boots.

Tesco commercial and trading director Richard Brasher's odds are holding at 5/2.

City analysts generally feel that the Morrisons board has a shortlist of candidates, but that it will not have made a final decision on the appointment by the time of the company's AGM on May 25. One analyst compared the frenzy of speculation to that surrounding the appointment of the new England football manager, adding: "No one has been smoked out, because they (Morrisons) haven't decided yet."

The City's pressure on Morrisons for new blood has all but ruled out internal candidates - Marie Melnyk and Mark Gunter have both plummeted to 25/1 from initial odds of 9/2 and 6/1 respectively.

Meanwhile, Jocelyn Dennert, of headhunter Korn Ferry's European board recruitment practice, said that Sir Ken Morrison was unlikely to announce an imminent departure date at the upcoming AGM.

This was because leaving at the same time that a new chief executive was appointed would impose too much strain on the company.