Blog: Katy AskewSainsbury's insists King staying... again

Katy Askew | 29 April 2013

Sainsbury's has again insisted chief executive Justin King has no imminent plans to exit the UK supermarket group.

The weekend papers were once more buzzing with speculation that King could be preparing to depart the UK's third-largest retailer.

Over the past month, reports have had him making an array of career moves, from the seemingly left-field suggestion that he could be replacing 82-year-old Bernie Ecclestone as the chief executive of Formula One (an option that seems to be largely based on the fact his son is a Formula Three driver) to the more predictable suggestion that he could take the helm at Marks and Spencer, a retailer that has disappointed the market as it grapples with various issues at its clothing business.

According to the latest set of reports, Sainsbury's has started long-term succession planning by instructing the executive search firm Egon Zehnder to find a replacement for King. Potential candidates have been cited as Sainsbury's commercial director Mike Coupe - believed to be the leading internal contender - Coles MD Ian McLeod, outgoing WH Smith boss Kate Swann, as well as various Tesco directors - including UK MD Chris Bush.

But the chief executive has quickly moved to cool speculation that he will be checking out of Sainsbury's any time soon. In a television interview yesterday (28 April), King said: "I am not planning on going anywhere. I see myself staying at Sainsbury's."

While Sainsbury's and its chief executive evidently plan to remain tight-lipped over the possibility that King could be preparing to abdicate, it seems likely the rumour mill will continue to turn. Speculation will be given added impetus as King approaches his tenth anniversary of taking the helm at the retailer in 2014.


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