30 March 2000
Somerfield chief ousted

SOMERFIELD chief executive David Simons has been ousted amid growing increasing concern about the food retailers trading performance.

The company said Mr Simons had resigned with immediate effect.

The Financial Times reports that he is being replaced by Alan Smith, currently chief executive of Punch Taverns, and former managing director of Kingfisher, B&Q and Superdrug chains.

Somerfield said talks with potential bidders had ended. It is reported that tentative offers were felt to be too low.

Mr Simons departure follows Somerfields merger with Kwik Save in 1998, which led to a series of profit warnings and a strategic overhaul.

Recent plans by the chain to sell 500 stores foundered.

Mr Simons, who is likely to receive a 460,000 pay off, had been attempting to reposition the chain as a neighbourhood store. But he had struggled to sell outlets and stem falling sales and profits.

The Outlook column in The Independent says while the departure of Mr Simons is no great shock, the greater surprise is that Somerfield has found a replacement.

It questions where the business can turn next, ruling out interest from buyers, a stock market floatation, or a trade sale.

To tackle this, new chief executive Alan Smith “must have negotiated one helluva pay packet”, it speculates.

The FT Observer column notes that Mr Simons was due to attend Thursdays (30 March) Downing Street farming summit along with other supermarket chiefs.

It reports that Mr Simons has now decided not to go, saving Tony Blair the embarrassment of what to say to a chief executive who has just lost his job.