Britain's fourth largest supermarket group Morrisons said finance director Trevor Strain is to take on chief executive duties while a successor is sought to replace Dalton Philips, who was ousted as CEO in January after poor Christmas trading.
The firm said that the former Brown Thomas man having overseen the end of Morrisons’ 2014-15 financial year to February 1st, would leave the business on Monday next.
The firm had said in January that Wicklow-born Philips would stay until March 12th, when full-year results are due to be presented.
Morrisons said the search for a new chief executive was "progressing well". In the interim, Mr Strain will chair the management board and assume Mr Philips' executive responsibilities, while new chairman Andrew Higginson will also spend more time in the business.
Mr Strain is not a candidate for the chief executive position on a permanent basis, Mr Higginson said last month.
The bookmakers' favourite is David Potts, a former Tesco colleague of Mr Higginson.
Mr Potts had a 39-year career with market leader Tesco. Having started off stacking shelves, he rose to head the firm’s UK business and then its Asian operations.
Mr Higginson was an executive director at Tesco for 15 years. Both left Tesco in 2012 after missing out on the chief executive job to Philip Clarke.
Morrisons lagged rivals Tesco, Wal-Mart's Asda and Sainsbury's under Mr Philips's five-year watch.
The firm has suffered because the discounters, Aldi and Lidl, are strong in its northern heartlands and it was late to move to into better performing parts of the market, namely convenience stores and online shopping.
However, industry data published on Tuesday showed Morrisons’ best performance since December 2013, with sales down 0.4 per cent over the 12 weeks to February.