MORRISONS’ highly-rated finance chief has been promoted to chief operating officer, putting him into pole position to take on the top job when current chief executive David Potts steps down.
Trevor Strain will give up his position as chief financial officer, handing over the reins to Michael Gleeson, focusing solely on the operational side of the business.
Mr Strain joined Morrisons during a tough time for the supermarket, when it was under enormous pressure to sell its stores and hand money back to shareholders.
He also oversaw a difficult period as the supermarket suffered hardest from the rise and rise of cheaper German rivals Aldi and Lidl. By comparison, Morrisons was pursuing a strategy of higher-end products and expensive store overhauls under then-chief executive Dalton Philips.
The new role will see him take over responsibility for commercial, manufacturing, supply chain, logistics, operations development, online and wholesale. It was not initially clear what his salary would be, but Mr Strain took home £3.2 million last year.
Analysts welcomed the move.
Clive Black at Shore Capital, which acts as Morrisons house broker, said: “Mr Strain is a high-quality business executive in our view. He has been fundamentally key to the stabilisation and onward progression of Morrisons in recent years.
“At that time, we feel we should state, Morrisons was a highly leveraged business with prospects that many equity analysts of the time had written off.
“Mr Strain was key, therefore, to the group’s evolution to today as a dynamic and positively developing business, one that has a very strong current financial constitution.”
Mr Gleeson will take home a basic salary of £490,000 – excluding any bonuses – which is lower than Mr Strain’s base pay of £622,000 in the role, although the latter was also commercial director prior to Wednesday’s promotion.
Mr Gleeson is currently trading director responsible for ambient grocery, frozen, dairy, fuel and services and has 29 years of financial and commercial experience.
A qualified chartered accountant, he has been trading director since January 2017 where he has played a leading role in Morrisons’ work to become more competitive and improve relationships with suppliers.
Mr Gleeson said: “This is an exciting time to take on this important role. There is still so much to do in our fix, rebuild, and grow turnaround and I look forward to playing my part.”
Mr Potts said: “These two appointments are a result of strong management development plans at Morrisons and I am delighted that we are promoting two highly capable colleagues from within the team.
“I look forward to continuing to work closely with both of them.
“Trevor is a proven and outstanding business leader who has played a pivotal role in the ongoing Morrisons turnaround.
“Michael has extensive financial, commercial and retail experience, together with a first-class track record, and his appointment will further strengthen the executive team.
“Together, and as part of the wider Morrisons team, we will continue to build a broader, stronger Morrisons.”