Sainsbury’s has once again been forced to deny reports that its long-serving CEO Justin King is set to leave.

Weekend reports suggested the supermarket chain had appointed headhunting firm Egon Zehnder to search for a replacement.

Possible candidates included Sainsbury’s commercial director Mike Coupe, as well as M&S food boss John Dixon and outgoing WHSmith CEO Kate Swann.

“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 said in a statement.

The speculation comes just three weeks after Sainsbury’s dismissed reports that King was set to replace Bernie Ecclestone as the boss of Formula One.

King, who has been at the helm of Sainsbury’s for nine years, is the longest-serving CEO of the big four multiples.