Wm Morrison Supermarkets’ chief executive has said that private equity ownership is good for the grocery store chain.
Since its leveraged buyout of Clayton Dubilier & Rice for £7 billion in 2021, Morrisons is a favorite among critics of private equity.
The retailer was left with £6.6bn of debt. This, coupled with rising interest rates, led to claims that the retailer had not been able to compete on price with its rivals.
David Potts, however, said that private equity ownership was good for Bradford-based retailer because it allowed them to prioritize what is important. He said, “I work with a group who have quite a lot of skin in this game.”
There’s a fine line between being curious and showing an interest, and being annoying. “I find that the skin in it and the interest in the business and the curiosity are very powerful — and I enjoy that.”
Potts gave the example of McColl’s corner shop, which was acquired out of administration by private equity last year. Negotiations were frantic over the weekend to secure the deal.
Morrisons, according to him, would have lost out to Asda if the company was still owned by the public. Asda had believed it had a deal in place. “We worked together and quickly… to secure McColl’s on that weekend. We won. Potts announced, “One-nil to Bradford.”
The retail veteran was confident that private equity would improve the chain. “I am confident that the business will be better off when CD&R leaves this company — I have no doubts at all.” He also denied speculation that Morrisons would sell its food manufacturing and processing businesses, which employs 9,000 people, in order to reduce its debt.
He said: “We all have to consider capex and opex, but they are not the ‘bish bah bosh of manufacturing.” “We are a major food producer and that will continue to be the case.”