Australian grocer Coles’ managing director Ian McLeod is to leave his role in July to take up a senior role at the retailer’s owner Wesfarmers Group.

McLeod will leave the role after six years at the helm in which he has turned around the grocer. From July, he will hold the position of group commercial director at Wesfarmers.

McLeod was chief executive of Halfords before joining Coles and held same position at football club Celtic from 2001 to 2003. He also worked for Asda for 20 years including as director of stores.

The new role has sparked speculation that McLeod may be wooed back to the UK for a turnaround role.

He will be replaced by Coles chief operating officer John Durkan. Durkan joined Coles in 2008 as merchandising director after four years as chief operating officer at Carphone Warehouse and 17 years at Safeway.

Wesfarmers managing director Richard Goyder said: “Ian’s success with the Coles Division, which has more than doubled earnings before interest and tax and helped generate significant shareholder value for the Wesfarmers Group, highlights his credentials as a world class retailer and leader.

“By enhancing the customer experience, improving our fresh food offering and on-shelf availability, as well as continued commitment to everyday low prices, the Coles business is unrecognisable from the one we purchased in 2007.”

McLeod added: “When I started at Coles in 2008, I felt that Australians deserved a better retail experience, with better stores, better standards, better prices and better quality. We have worked incredibly hard to deliver improvements in all of these areas and have been rewarded with four million additional customers visiting our stores each week,”

Goyder said Durkan was McLeod’s “natural successor”.