THE man who brought Nissan to the North-East is poised to be unveiled as chairman of supermarket chain Wm Morrison.
Sir Ian Gibson, who is also chairman of The Journal’s owner, the media group Trinity Mirror, has been reported to be replacing Sir Ken Morrison when he steps down as chairman next year.
Though Wm Morrison declined to comment, industry insiders expect an announcement in the next two weeks on Sir Ian’s appointment.
As well as a 20-year career at Nissan which saw him rise to posts including vice president of Nissan Europe, Sir Ian is now a non-executive director at Newcastle bakery chain Greggs, Newcastle bank Northern Rock and engineering group GKN.
Director of retail research at Mintel International Group, Richard Perks, said Sir Ian’s role “is going to be as a figurehead for the company and he will be able to contribute an objective view of the business. Wm Morrison used to be a fantastic company, but then Sir Ken went and bought Safeways, which was a huge mistake.
“There’s been a long process of integrating with Safeway, but now that is over, the critical question is whether [Sir Ian] will be the one to modernise the business.”
Made a CBE in 1991 and knighted in 1999 for services to industry, Manchester-born Sir Ian, 60, is best known for setting up Nissan’s Sunderland plant in 1985.
Nissan personnel director Danny Griffiths, who worked alongside Sir Ian at the car maker, said: “Sir Ian Gibson was instrumental in establishing Nissan’s Sunderland plant.
“He managed a wide brief incorporating all functions including customer interfacing, sales and marketing operations and is a seasoned business executive.
“He is ideally placed to share his extensive corporate experience and we wish him well.” While Sir Ian’s career has been mainly spent in manufacturing, he does have some retail experience, having been deputy chairman of Asda between 1993 and 1999.
In April last year, he was appointed chairman of Trinity Mirror, the UK’s largest newspaper group, which owns newspapers including The Journal, Evening Chronicle and Sunday Sun in Newcastle and the Evening Gazette in Middlesbrough. Since taking on the role, Sir Ian has been described as a hands-on leader and is credited with bringing female non-executives on to the board, making it the group with the most women board members of the FTSE 350 companies.
Sir Ken, 75, who has been at the helm of his family’s business for 51 years, has a 15% shareholding in Wm Morrison.