Sainsbury’s chair defends ex-CEO Mike Coupe’s leadership

Sainsbury's Mike Coupe Martin Scicluna Simon Roberts
Mike Coupe stepped down on May 31 and was succeeded by retail and operations director Simon Roberts
// Sainsbury’s chairman defends ex-CEO Mike Coupe’s six-year tenure at the supermarket’s AGM
// An investor asked if Coupe would apologise for the group’s share price performance under his leadership

Sainsbury’s chairman Martin Scicluna has defended the six-year tenure of former chief executive Mike Coupe after an investor at the supermarket’s AGM asked if he would apologise for its share price performance under his leadership.

Coupe stepped down on May 31 and was succeeded by retail and operations director Simon Roberts.

Coupe retired as a director at the conclusion of the meeting, which was held virtually due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

READ MORE: Sainsbury’s quarterly sales jumps 8.5% as lockdown doubles online revenue

When Coupe succeeded Justin King as chief executive in July 2014, Sainsbury’s share price was 309 pence.

It closed on May 29, the last working day before he stepped down, at 194 pence.

“In common with other UK grocery businesses, total shareholder return (TSR) for Sainsbury’s has trended below that of the FTSE 100 index in recent years,” Scicluna said.

“However, if you look at our track record over the last seven years our TSR has been above that of market leader Tesco.”

Scicluna also noted that the board had deferred any dividend decisions until later in the financial year due to the pandemic which had impacted TSR.

Last year, Coupe’s attempt to take over Walmart owned rival Asda, but was blocked by the CMA.

The same shareholder also asked what measures Roberts would introduce “to make Sainsbury’s great again”.

Scicluna said Roberts was following the plan Sainsbury’s set out to investors at its Capital Markets Day last September but his current priority was to survive through the coronavirus crisis.

“I’m sure there are things that we’ll be doing differently as we come out of this crisis and our focus is ensuring we emerge a stronger business,” he said.

Sainsbury’s posted bumper trading for the first quarter of its financial year on Wednesday as online sales more than doubled thanks to the lockdown.

Total sales jumped by 8.5 per cent year-on-year for the three month period ending June 27, amid strong demand for store-cupboard essentials.

However, it warned that profits could take a hit of more than £500 million due to the impact of the pandemic, although this would be “broadly offset by business rates relief and stronger grocery sales”.

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