Sir Ken Morrison’s attack on Marc Bolland was unbecoming of a retail legend

Sir Ken Morrison’s rather intemperate attack on Marc Bolland at yesterday’s Morrisons’ annual meeting came a bit out of the blue, but maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. Ken has never been one to mince his words but his damning of Bolland was extraordinary and in real contrast to his previous utterings on the Dutchman.

It could be interpreted as rather bitter. Ken had wanted whoever came in at Morrisons to stay for a long time and dedicate themselves to the retailer for the long term. Bolland was never going to turn down the opportunity to take on the top job at M&S, and Morrison probably feels rather hurt that he turned his back on Bradford for the bright lights of London.

Actually while the tone of the comments wasn’t on, that doesn’t mean that Ken’s point of view is invalid. A lot of people agree that much of the post-Safeway pain and hard work at Morrisons had taken place by the time Bolland started. Certainly he was presented with a fantastic opportunity to grow the business and rebuild Morrisons based on the values Ken established it on, something Marc did with real skill.

As for Ken’s comment that Bolland “patently wasn’t a retailer”, well lots of people who run retailers today aren’t. He’s a marketing and brand man who has turned his hand to retailing with real skill. Unlike in Ken’s day, most people aren’t out and out retailers man and boy, and actually the perspectives they bring from other worlds are invaluable to their success.

That’s not to say Bolland will be a certain success at M&S. It’s a completely different ball game to Morrisons and he can’t just focus on doing a better job of what’s it’s always done, which is what he was able to do in Bradford. That said, he is the best man for the job, and Ken would be better off wishing him well then sniping at the man who turned around the business which bears his name.