Waitrose managing director Mark Price has been named as a leading contender to replace Marc Bolland as chief executive of Morrisons.

According to the Sunday Times, Price could be tempted to move to Morrisons for an estimated £2m-a-year pay package. It is reported that any pay deal offered by Morrisons would dwarf the salary and bonus he could earn at Waitrose.

Price is thought to be liked by Morrisons founder Sir Ken Morrison, who is also one of the retailer’s biggest shareholders.

Price has defied the recession to report bumper sales for Waitrose. He has grown sales with the launch of a value line, Waitrose Essential, and has brokered several deals such as a partnership with Alliance Boots to sell products in each others’ stores and a partnership with Welcome Break to open shops at service stations. Price has even pushed rival Marks & Spencer to take out adverts attacking Waitrose in a bid to win customers back.

Waitrose has also today announced a trial to sell Waitrose products in three Shell forecourt shops, with a view to rolling out to more stores next year. The shops are in Fouroaks, Fiveways and London Road, all in the Birmingham area.

Price refused to discuss Morrisons at the weekend but said he was loving Waitrose after several weeks of “stonking sales growth”.

Morrisons chairman Sir Ian Gibson and senior director Paul Manduca are seeking a new chief executive after Bolland was appointed chief executive of Marks & Spencer last week.

Other names linked to the Morrisons role are Asda chief merchandising officer Darren Blackhurst, Tesco’s US boss Tim Mason, former Somerfield chief executive Paul Mason and internal candidate, Morrisons financial director Richard Pennycook.

Sir Ken, however, this weekend cast doubt on Pennycook’s credentials, saying: “He’s not a retailer, is he?”