Analysts say Sir Ken Morrison&'s retirement from Morrisons in 2008 will leave the supermarket group &"weaker for his absence&".
This week, at the retailer&'s agm, Sir Ken, who has been chairman of Morrisons since 1956, confirmed his retirement to shareholders.
&"I&'ve informed the board of my intention to retire by the end of the financial year in January 2008,&" he said.
He added that Morrisons&' board had invited him to become a life president following his retirement.
Jonathan Pritchard, an analyst at Oriel Securities, said that his decision was &"a sensible hand-over period&". He added: &"I&'m glad that he will still be able to offer his grocery wisdom when the new CEO arrives. It would have been utterly wrong, and harmful to the business, for him to simply clear his desk and leave. When he departs, Morrisons will be a weaker food retailer for his absence.&"
Sir Ken has worked at Morrisons since finishing national service in 1952. He was chairman and managing director from 1956 to 1997, after which he stepped down from the MD role.
He was awarded the CBE in 1990 and was knighted in 2000 for services to the food retailing industry. In 2003 he also won The Grocer Cup for outstanding business achievement, as voted for by readers of The Grocer.
Meanwhile, Morrisons has missed its own deadline to reveal a successor to out­going CEO Bob Stott. The retailer had said it would announce a replacement for Stott at its agm.
However, Sir Ken instead told shareholders that the search was approaching the final stages and a firm announcement would be made within the next two to three weeks.
Richard Ratner, an analyst at Seymour Pierce, said that Sir Ken&'s departure would make it a lot easier for the in-coming CEO. He added: &"Is this a case of leaving with dignity rather than being carried out after reported boardroom battles?&"
Beth Brooks