Sainsbury's has played down the impact on its business of the departure of former retail director Ken McMeikan for high street baker Greggs.

McMeikan was unveiled as the new CEO this Wednesday, three months after Sainsbury's announced he was taking a three-month sabbatical for "personal reasons".

He will replace Greggs group MD Sir Michael Darrington, who retires in July. At Sainsbury's, supply chain director, Roger Burnley, will take on the newly created combined role of retail and logistics director on 21 April.

There would be no changes to the management structure beneath Burnley, said the retailer.

Sainsbury's CEO Justin King praised McMeikan's contribution to the chain's recovery. King, who has been covering the retail side of the business since McMeikan went on sabbatical, said he was confident that combining the retail and logistic roles would allow Sainsbury's to "continue to improve the performance of both our stores and depots".

McMeikan previously held supply chain director roles at Asda and Matalan. Prior to joining Sainsbury's in 2005, McMeikan spent 14 years at Tesco, where he was responsible for the integration of the Europa Foods c-store business into Tesco Express in 2002.

Sainsbury's denied speculation that the appointment meant McMeikan had never had any intention of returning. "This was definitely not gardening leave," a spokesman said. "Ken asked for time off for personal reasons but there was always room for him to come back."

Sir Michael, who will remain on the Greggs board as a non-executive director, said McMeikan would "prove particularly relevant in developing Greggs as a much more unified and customer-focused national brand".