UK supermarket group J Sainsbury has said its newly appointed deputy chairman, Sir Ian Prosser, has decided to stand down.

Sainsbury's announced last week that it had appointed Prosser as its deputy chairman, with the intention that he would take over from Sir Peter Davis as chairman when Davis retires in 2005.

The appointment led to anger amongst several major shareholders, who voiced dissatisfaction about Prosser's previous track record at leisure group Six Continents, where his reign was characterised by poor shareholder returns and an inflexible attitude towards shareholders.

"The board of J Sainsbury Plc and Sir Ian Prosser have each considered carefully the reaction of certain institutional shareholders consulted on the appointment. As a result, Sir Ian has concluded that it would not be in the best interests of the company to proceed," Sainsbury's was quoted by Reuters as saying.