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Sainsbury’s chief executive Mike Coupe to retire

Sainsbury’s has announced its chief executive Mike Coupe is to retire, less than a year after its bid to merge with rival Asda was blocked.

Mr Coupe said in a statement: “This has been a very difficult decision for me personally.

“There is never a good time to move on, but as we and the industry continue to evolve, I believe now is the right time for me to hand over to my successor.”

Image: Angry shareholders last year told Mr Coupe he should be fired

He added: “I feel very privileged to have spent almost six years running Sainsbury’s, in a period that has been the most challenging and competitive of my 35-year career in retail.

“Sainsbury’s is a very different business today to the one I took over in 2014.”

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The news comes a day after it was revealed that the supermarket chain is to cut hundreds of management jobs, building on a cull of more senior roles last year.

The retailer blamed continued integration of Argos, which it bought in 2016, into its stores.

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That announcement had followed the supermarket’s fifth consecutive quarter of falling sales, blamed on weak sales of games and toys over the 15 weeks to 4 January against a backdrop of increasing competition.

Mr Coupe, 59, was widely criticised after he was caught on camera singing We’re In The Money after the merger with Asda was announced in 2018.

Despite the failure of the tie-up and the supermarket’s resulting slump in share price, his annual pay rose 7% to £3.9m, including bonuses.

In July, the company held its first AGM since the announcement, where some angry shareholders told Mr Coupe he should be fired.

Image: Sainsbury’s bought Argos in 2016

But, at the time, chairman Martin Scicluna said the £13bn merger with Asda would have been a “cracking deal”.

He also defended Mr Coupe, who he said “knows retail more than anybody in this world” and deserved to be rewarded for delivering an 8% rise in underlying profits.

On Wednesday, Mr Scicluna said Mr Coupe had been an “exceptional” chief executive, adding: “His knowledge and understanding of the retail sector and customer behaviour is second to none.

“Mike has been bold and ambitious on behalf of our shareholders, customers and our colleagues.

“Investing heavily in convenience, online and our digital capability, selling Sainsbury’s pharmacy business and acquiring Argos and Nectar have all been sound strategic moves.

“These set us up well as we come together to create one multi brand, multi channel business for our customers.”

Mr Coupe will retire at the end of May when he will be replaced by the supermarket’s retail and operations director Simon Roberts.

Shares closed the day 2% down.

Sainsbury’s said Mr Roberts will be on a base salary of £875,000 with a pension benefit at 7.5% of his salary “in line with the pension opportunity offered to the workforce generally”.

Mr Coupe’s base salary was £962,000 in 2018/19.

Mr Roberts, 48, joined Sainsbury’s in July 2017 and the company said he has since led a restructure and digitisation of the store operations as well as being a “champion for diversity and inclusion…(enabling) a significant transformation in capabilities and leadership”.

SOURCE : https://news.sky.com/story/sainsburys-chief-executive-mike-coupe-to-retire-11914738

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