Morrisons yesterday appeared to have won an important breathing space as the City gave its backing to a major boardroom overhaul.
Some analysts said the appointment of three nonexecutives boosted the credibility of chairman Sir Ken Morrison at a time when the firm has run into difficulties integrating its £3 billion purchase of Safeway.
Morrisons shares were initially close to the top of the FTSE 100 Index risers as investors got their first chance to react to last night's news. They later fell back to close to their opening mark.
The firm said it had appointed former Littlewoods chief executive Susan Murray, Nigel Robertson, who helped set up online grocery shopping operation Ocado, and Brian Flanagan, who worked for Mars for 26 years. It plans to recruit another director in the next month.
Sir Ken and deputy chairman David Jones are widely said to have disagreed on the appointments, with the chairman thought to have been holding out to secure a big name to appease investors.
Richard Ratner, retail analyst at stockbroker Seymour Pierce, said the move was proof Sir Ken had not "lost touch with reality".
He said: "For the time being, the war appears to be over, but it must be inevitable that at some time in the not too distant future Sir Ken will step up to be life president."
Mr Ratner said the move must be viewed as a victory for non-executive Mr Jones, even though non-executives were still outnumbered by Sir Ken's executive board.
The chain has been under great pressure to make the appointments since suffering in the wake of its £3 billion acquisition of Safeway.
Any signs of boardroom unrest would have unsettled the City, which has been rocked by five profits warnings since the purchase.
Sir Ken recently announced that he was stepping down from day-to-day running of the firm in order to concentrate on its strategic vision.
Meanwhile, analysts turned their attention to the matter of a successor for chief executive Bob Stott.
"I think it's critical that a new chief executive is appointed before any further pressure emerges on the revenue line," said Ben Britz, food retail analyst at Morgan Stanley in London.
"With the new boss of Asda (Andy Bond) appearing to refocus on value, and Justin King seeming to do a good job at Sainsbury, the Morrison sales line may struggle. So you've got to get a new chief executive in fast," he said.
The non-execs are likely to begin the search as soon as they take office on July 1, and have appointed Hanson Green to trawl for candidates.
The new chief executive will likely to be an existing name in UK retail - Morrison doesn't have even the few short months afforded to the relatively unknown Justin King when he took the helm at Sainsbury last summer.
Whoever it is will have their work cut out. Not only is competition nothing short of murderous, Morrison has other problems that many would say were of its own making.