Waitrose managing director Mark Price is stepping down from his role at the upmarket supermarket chain amid rumours he is being lined up for the top job at Channel 4.
The ebullient 55 year-old, who gave himself the nickname the chubby grocer, will leave in April next year after 33 years at the John Lewis Partnership (JLP) and 10 as boss of Waitrose.
Price has been deputy chairman of broadcaster Channel 4 since 2013 and has been widely tipped to take over as chairman when Lord Burns steps down.
In a statement, Price said he was just at the start of developing his plans for next year onwards.
“Leading Waitrose has been amazing and I feel blessed to have been given the opportunity; but I’ve always had in mind that 10 years would be about the right length of time to do this. And so I’ve concluded that this is the moment to go and do other things in business, consultancy, writing and lecturing,” he said.
Waitrose retail director Rob Collins, who has been with the employee-owned group for 22 years, will take over from Price when he leaves.
JLP chairman Sir Charlie Mayfield praised Price’s “long and distinguished career” with the partnership and said his leadership of Waitrose “has seen outstanding success”.
Mayfield added that Collins has been a central figure in Waitrose’s management team for a number of years part of the board’s thinking on succession planning for some time: “I’m confident that he will make the step-up to the managing director role quickly and effectively.”
Waitrose has added more than 200 stores and seen sales jump by 65 per cent during Price’s tenure at the chain.
However, the retailer has not been immune to industry price war, and after initially benefiting from a polarisation in the market, sales have begun to slow.
Neil Saunders, chief executive of retail consultancy Conlumino said: “As one chapter of Waitrose history closes, another one now opens under the leadership of Collins. The backdrop to the next part of the story is fairly bleak and despite its success Waitrose, like every other grocery retailer, faces enormous challenges.”