The co-founder of convenience chain McColl's has stepped down from the board with immediate effect, amid rumours that he is involved in a rescue deal for a major wholesaler.
James Lancaster has resigned as non-executive director at McColl's, the convenience chain which recently signed a supply deal with Morrisons.
Lancaster's name has been floated as a potential leader in the attempted rescue of wholesaler Palmer & Harvey. A spokesperson for McColl's could not confirm whether his departure was linked to the rescue.
McColl's chairman Angus Porter said: "On behalf of the board, I want to thank James for his enormous contribution to McColl's over the years. Under his direction and guidance, he has helped grow McColl's into one of the largest independent neighbourhood retailers in the UK. We wish him all the best with his future endeavours."
Lancaster co-founded McColl's, which was then a cigarette vending machine business, in 1973. He later served as chief executive for more than 20 years before relinquishing the role to current boss Jonathan Miller.
He said: "I am extremely proud of the business I co-founded over 40 years ago, but it is now the right time for me to stand down. I have every confidence that under the stewardship of the board, and in the capable hands of Jonathan Miller and his superb management team, McColl's will continue to thrive. I wish the group all the best for the future."
The announcement comes at a time of change in the convenience sector. Former McColl's supplier Nisa is currently awaiting a formal offer from the Co-Op, after Sainsbury's paused talks on a possible buyout of the convenience business.