Ian Cheshire of B&Q is the leading contender to become chief executive of Kingfisher after the DIY group said it would part company with Gerry Murphy in the new year. Financial Times, The Times, Daily Telegraph

The departure is expected to see Kingfisher' expansion accelerate.

Mr Murphy, the former chief executive of Carlton Communications, joined Kingfisher in 2003 just a year before UK interest rates rises began to bite and consumers’ love affair with home improvement ended abruptly. The UK market declined by £1.5bn between 2004 and 2006, Kingfisher estimates.

He was seen to have failed to prepare Kingfisher for the dramatic slowdown in DIY sales in 2005 and to have balked at cutting the dividend to fund investment in the business.

Kingfisher is believed to have held a long-term review of its strategy, decided that it was right but that a chief executive needed to be in place for the next five years and that Mr Murphy might not last the distance.