During earlier stages of their careers, the pair had worked together at Asda. Coupe held the post of trading director and was King’s boss. Coupe, who became MD of Iceland and a director of the Big Food Group in 2001, officially left last week. Iceland announced in January that he would be leaving.
Coupe spent his early career at Tesco, where he was trading director for two years. Before that he was head of corporate marketing.
His new role at Sainsbury will pitch him into a head-to-head contest with another friend -
Tesco commercial and trading director Richard Brasher, with whom he once shared a flat.
At Sainsbury, Coupe replaces Stephen Nelson who becomes marketing director.
He assumes the marketing responsibilities of Sara Weller, who announced that she was stepping down from the executive board in March to join Argos as managing director.
It has not yet been decided when Coupe will take up his post at Sainsbury and Nelson will cover his role until he joins the company.
Nelson rejoined Sainsbury in July 2003 from Diageo, where he was president (North America) South West for Diageo.
He and Coupe will both have a seat on Sainsbury’s recently created operating board.
King said: “Mike is an experienced retailer and trader who has worked in the UK grocery market for more than 20 years. Stephen has been at the forefront of change in trading at Sainsbury. I am delighted he will lead our product quality and innovation agenda in his new role in marketing.”