Sainsbury's boss denies quit claims

Justin KingThe long-standing boss of Sainbury's has been forced to deny he is quitting the supermarket amid reports it has lined up headhunters to seek a replacement.

Sunday newspaper reports said the UK's third-biggest grocer has asked headhunter firm Egon Zehnder to sound out possible candidates to replace its chief executive Justin King. However, Mr King, who has spearheaded the retailer's growth amid a lacklustre economic climate, is not thought to be planning to leave in the near future.

The Mail on Sunday and the Sunday Times said the retailer has appointed Egon Zehnder to look for possible replacements.

Mike Coupe, Sainsbury's commercial director, was named front-runner to replace Mr King, with other possible candidates including outgoing WH Smith boss Kate Swann and Marks & Spencer clothing head John Dixon.

Mr King today told Sky News: "I am not planning on going anywhere."

Mr King was poached from Marks & Spencer in 2004 to become Sainsbury's chief executive and has driven a turnaround of the grocer.

Latest figures from market researcher Kantar Worldpanel show Sainsbury's was the only one of the big four supermarkets to grow market share during the 12 weeks to mid-April. Its market share rose to 16.9% from 16.6% a year earlier, putting it hot on the heels of second-placed Asda.

Mr King was recently touted as a possible replacement for Bernie Ecclestone as the boss of Formula 1 motor racing - something the retailer also denied.

A Sainsbury's spokeswoman said: "This is pure speculation. Justin has made his commitment to the business clear and is excited about the opportunities to grow and develop it. Any discussion of succession is totally premature."

Sainsbury's announces full-year results on May 8, when it is forecast to report the ninth consecutive rise in annual profits since Mr King joined the retailer.
Read Full Story