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Under-pressure Sainsbury's CEO announces retirement, Roberts steps up

Published
today Jan 22, 2020
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The chief executive of Sainsbury’s, Mike Coupe, has bowed to the inevitable and is stepping down from his role at the end of May. He’s being replaced from June 1 by current Retail and Operations Director Simon Roberts, who’s been with the company for three years.


Sainsbury's CEO Mike Coupe



Coupe has overseen enormous change at the company, spearheading its purchase of general merchandise retailer Argos, the wisdom of which is still being debated. He also saw the supermarkets giant boosting its fashion offer with its Tu Clothing brand, which is now one of the biggest-selling labels in British value-focused fashion.

But the inability of Argos to provide a major profits boost, the failure of the merger plan with Asda, and PR mis-steps (like Coupe being recorded off camera singing We’re In The Money when the Asda plan was first announced) all added to pressure on him to step down.

The news about Coupe, who’s been in charge of the firm for six years, comes a day after the company also announced the elimination of a raft of management roles on the back of its integration of Argos into the operation.

The retailer’s chairman Martin Scicluna said: "Mike is an exceptional chief executive. 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.”

Coupe himself added: "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. Martin and I both believe the business is well set up, with a strong management team and a clear plan for the future.”

And what about his replacement? The chairman also said that “Simon has been extremely effective during his three years at Sainsbury's, leading our store teams through great change in that time. Simon is a dedicated, determined and enthusiastic champion of the customer and of our colleagues and has overseen sustained improvements in our competitiveness during his time so far”.

Roberts will be paid a base salary of £875,000 a year in the role and will receive other incentives “in line with” those paid to Coupe. 

As mentioned, he’s been with the company for three years, but he also has over 30 years' experience leading major UK retail brands. He spent 15 years at M&S and 13 years at Boots, where he became President of Boots UK.

In addition to leading Sainsbury's retail and logistics operations, he recently took responsibility for Argos's retail operations as part of its continued integration.

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