Supermarket boss Sir Ken Morrison has bowed to shareholder pressure with a boardroom shake-up at the chain he has run for almost 50 years.
The changes will see Morrisons appoint a chief executive for the first time and replace its finance director after a profits warning last week led to calls for the company to overhaul its management structure.
The profits warning - the second in its history and nine months after the first alert - stemmed from a review of sums owed to it by suppliers to Safeway.
Sir Ken, who has been with the company since 1952, will remain as executive chairman while independent director David Jones becomes his deputy.
The veteran boss said he believed Morrisons now had "the right team to deliver the full benefits of the Safeway acquisition".
The business-transforming deal, which saw Morrisons pay more than £3 billion for its larger rival, left its mark on annual results, which showed that bottom-line profits fell to £297.1 million from £319.9 million a year earlier.
Sales in the 52 weeks to January 30 showed strong gains at Morrisons and converted Safeway stores, but those outlets still to be converted to the Morrisons format saw a like-for-like sales fall of 6.8 per cent.
That performance has improved since the start of the new financial year, the company added.
Morrisons said it hoped to have the store conversion programme "substantially complete" by the start of 2006 -- about a year ahead of schedule. It expects to have 350 outlets by the end of the process.
Sir Ken said: "The task of converting Safeway has been challenging but I believe we have made good progress towards our objective of becoming one of the four major national food retailers and are on track to complete the programme well ahead of the original plan."
Morrisons said it converted 57 Safeway stores to the Morrisons fascia during the year.
A further 112 stores were sold during the financial year, raising £ 903 million - £360 million more than the original value of the sites. A further 52 smaller outlets worth £80 million have been sold since the end of the financial year.
Yesterday's boardroom changes will see managing director Bob Stott step up to become chief executive. Martin Ackroyd, who came under pressure following the profits warning last week, will not seek re-election as finance director in May.
He has been with Morrisons for 31 years and may stay with the company in another role once his post has been filled, Sir Ken added.
Sir Ken said the changes would "create the right team" for integrating Safeway, but analysts will view the moves as a major step-change for a group that began life as an egg and butter merchant in 1899.