Experimental feature

Listen to this article

Experimental feature

Sir Ken Morrison, who built one of Britain’s biggest retail chains out of a small business he took over from his father, has died aged 85 following a short illness.

A Yorkshireman who took over the retailer in 1957 shortly after completing his national service, he transformed the family business into the national chain that is now Britain’s fourth-biggest grocer.

He stepped down in 2008 after presiding over the disastrous acquisition of Safeway in 2004, a transaction that triggered five profit warnings. It took half a decade to weld the value-oriented business to a predominantly southern chain whose customers initially sneered at the northern brand.

However, Morrison retained a small stake and occasionally blasted his successors from his emeritus position as the company’s “life president”.

“When I left work and started working as a hobby, I chose to raise cattle,” he told the supermarket’s then-boss Dalton Philips in 2014, less than a year before he was fired.

“I have something like 1,000 bullocks and, having listened to your presentation, Dalton, you’ve got a lot more bullshit than me.”

Andrew Higginson, the current chairman of Morrisons, said:

I know that I speak for the whole company when I say how profoundly sad we were to hear of Sir Ken’s death. He was an inspirational leader and the driving force behind Morrisons for over half a century. Although he retired several years ago, his legacy is evident every day and in every aspect of our business.

Image via PA

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2018. All rights reserved.

Comments have not been enabled for this article.