Time is running out for Woolworths chair Gordon Cairns to meet his own deadline and bring on a new boss to lead the embattled retail operation.
With just over two weeks until the end of February, some supermarket insiders suggest the job is still up for grabs and no one candidate is in the frame.
Sources close to Woolworths were stunned by these reports amid investor anxiety over the urgent need to install a new boss to herald a new era at Australia's biggest supermarket chain.
"The last time I checked, that six months is up at the end of February, so I don't know why people are getting impatient."
Mr Cairns admitted in January that a number of Australian candidates had turned down the opportunity to run Woolworths, which clocked up losses of $600 million from its disastrous Masters business, which in turn put pressure on its core supermarket operation.
At the time, Mr Cairns warned the process could take longer than expected but he now appears to be working to the end of February deadline, suggesting the process is nearly concluded.
"I'm not going to apologise if we get to March and I'm saying 'Look, give me another couple of months or so' because we are nearly there," Mr Cairns said in January.
Talk suggests the shortlist has been whittled down to just two candidates and market watchers suggest a new chief could be announced at the half-year results on February 26.
Brad Banducci speculation
Speculation that Woolworths is honing in on a candidate for the top job sparked talk this week over the future of supermarkets boss Brad Banducci.
Woolworths insiders suggest Mr Banducci, who is considered the only internal candidate for the top job, may look for other opportunities if he misses out on the promotion.
"I would be extraordinarily surprised if Brad stayed on if he missed out on the top job," one source said.
One retail insider said Mr Banducci's departure would be a big loss for the organisation, particularly given the team he had built around him and the changes he has driven.
Mr Banducci was managing director of Woolworths dominant liquor business from 2012, before taking on the head-of-supermarkets role in February last year.
More recently Woolworths undertook a restructure of its senior supermarket staff, which included cutting the role of supermarket director. Dave Chambers, who was in this role, is returning to New Zealand to his former role as head of supermarkets.
Woolworths head of petrol and convenience, Michael James, who has been appointed director of stores, replacing John Eales who plans to retire, and Pat McEntee, who has been running New Zealand supermarkets, is returning to Australia to head up meat for Woolworths, the supermarket's most highly vertically integrated division.
Woolworths staff claimed the changes suggested the appointment of an external candidate was imminent, a move analysts and investors have championed to drive real cultural change across the organisation.
Any appointment is not expected to affect incumbent chief Grant O'Brien, who has stayed on at Woolworths to collect his lucrative pension, which amounts to a $10 million payout when he leaves the offices for the last time in July.
Mr O'Brien is not playing a part in Woolworths investor roadshow after its half-year results come out later this month, and insiders believe he will not play a significant role in explaining the numbers to investors and shareholders.