Halfords chief executive Ian McLeod has quit to join Australian grocer Coles as managing director.

His departure, announced by Coles parent Wesfarmers, will reunite him with former Asda boss Archie Norman, who has been advising Coles since its AUS$20 billion (£9.13 billion) takeover by Wesfarmers.

McLeod joined Asda in 1981 and played a key role in Asda's recovery in the 1990s, in both merchandising and store operations roles. Following the acquisition of Asda by Wal-Mart, McLeod became part of the executive leadership of Wal-Mart's German operations.

He joined Halfords in 2003 and has been chief executive since February 2005. At the motor accessories retailer, he drove the improvement in its performance under private equity ownership and its subsequent listing on the London Stock Exchange. McLeod will start at Coles in May.

Wesfarmers managing director Richard Goyder said: “We have always said that it will take time to turn around the Coles supermarkets, which have been performing poorly relative to the competition.

“Ian’s remuneration, which we’ve referred to separately, is appropriately structured to reward success over the next three to five years. It reflects what is needed to attract a person of his calibre in a very competitive international employment market, while ensuring that performance rewards are aligned to the interests of Wesfarmers’ shareholders.”

It is understood that Barracuda, the executive search retail boutique, handled the assignment on behalf of Wesfarmers.

The board of Halfords will now select a successor from a range of internal and external candidates and a search consultancy has been appointed to assist with this process. In the interim period, the two board executive directors, trading director Paul McClenaghan and finance director Nick Wharton, will report to the chairman as acting joint managing directors.