Justin King, Sainsbury's

Sainsbury’s CEO Justin King says he doesn’t have his next role lined up

Sainsbury’s outgoing CEO Justin King has insisted he “has not talked to anybody about any job”, before announcing this morning that he was stepping down after 10 years at the top.

King, 52, has repeatedly been linked to the top job at Formula 1, and also to Marks & Spencer, but told journalists today that any speculation had “been purely that”.

His plans for the next six months were to focus on a smooth transition and handover to current group commercial director and now CEO designate Mike Coupe.

But he said he would be taking on another role.

“I’m a relatively young man,” King said. “I think there’s plenty more in the tank and I’m looking forward to the next stage in my career.”

“I think there’s plenty more in the tank and I’m looking forward to the next stage in my career”

Justin King

King has a non-compete clause that prevents him from moving to another major grocer – including M&S – for 12 months.

King, who joined Sainsbury’s in March 2004, added that his proudest achievement was “how proud and happy his colleagues were to work at Sainsbury’s”. He would also miss his colleagues the most.

Sainsbury’s also revealed it had been making succession plans for the past three to four years. Chairman David Tyler said there had been a “thorough review of external candidates” but “Mike was the outstanding candidate”.

On King, Tyler added that he had been an “absolutely inspirational leader” for Sainsbury’s and had “affected one of the most striking turnarounds in business”.

“In 2004, when Justin joined, Sainsbury’s was close to being on its knees,” Tyler said.

“Its shelves were often unstocked, morale was at rock bottom, our market share was falling and profits were wholly inadequate. And from the moment he joined, it was clear he was on a mission to make Sainsbury’s great again.”

And Tyler said Coupe had “a great record of leadership and innovation” at Sainsbury’s, and that there was “no doubt” he would be an “outstanding CEO”.

Coupe, meanwhile, said he was “absolutely delighted and incredibly proud” and “very, very excited about the future”. He added that he had worked with Justin for 17 out of the last 20 years and that he was leaving a “fantastic legacy”.

Tyler also quashed speculation that Sainsbury’s chief financial officer John Rogers had been a candidate for the top job, revealing Rogers had not put himself forward for the role.

Rogers said he was “very much looking forward to supporting Justin and Mike through the transition and working with Mike going forward”.