He is 41-year-old Dalton Philips, chief operating officer of Loblaw, one of Canada's major supermarket groups, which also sells general merchandise and financial products.
The move will be seen as a strong but left-field appointment, as Philips, an Irishman who went to Stow public school in England, has international experience but was not among the names touted in the sector as a possible successor to Bolland.
Sir Ian Gibson, chairman of Morrisons, said he was "delighted" with the appointment.
"He has a tremendous retail pedigree and a wealth of experience from senior retail positions around the world," Gibson said.
Philips, who takes up his position in March, said: "I am really pleased to be joining Morrisons. It's an incredibly exciting business with a terrific history and I'm really looking forward to meeting the team and the challenge ahead."
Philips has held his current position with Loblaw since January 2007. The chain has more than 1,000 stores throughout Canada and a turnover of 18 billion – bigger than Morrisons' 14.5bn in its last financial year. Before joining the Canadian food giant, Philips was chief executive of Irish department store group Brown Thomas.
Between 1998 and 2005 he worked for US supermarket behemoth Wal-Mart's international division, becoming chief operating officer in Germany. Wal-Mart's overseas operations include Asda in Britain.
Philips started his career as a store manager with Jardine Matheson in New Zealand. He is also a Harvard Business School graduate.
He is married with three children, and company sources said he planned to relocate near Morrisons' Bradford HQ. The group has expanded strongly in Scotland in recent years following its acquisition of Safeway in 2003.
There were no details of the new man's remuneration package yesterday or whether he had received any signing-on fee in compensation for any bonuses he may have had to give up at Loblaw.
It is still unclear when 50-year-old Bolland, who has left Morrisons but is on gardening leave before he joins M&S as its chief executive, will be allowed to join the rival.
Sources said yesterday's announcement was unconnected with those discussions.
Morrisons' finance director Richard Pennycook had been seen by some analysts as a strong contender for the role, having been involved in strategy with Bolland.
But others had questioned his pure retailing credentials.