Anna Ford joins board of Sainsbury's and puts health on agenda

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The Independent Online

Anna Ford, the newsreader who has just quit the BBC after 30 years, is joining the board of the supermarket group Sainsbury's.

With a brief to improve the image of the supermarket on environmental and social issues, the 62-year-old also intends to press the company to employ more people over 50 and cut the amount of salt in its food.

She said: "I've always admired Sainsbury's and I'm very interested in the whole issue of food quality and innovation, where it comes from and what consumers want. It's great to be involved at such an interesting time in Sainsbury's development."

The group also moved to bolster the management team at its troubled banking arm, which is expected to make losses of £10m for the year to March.

It has hired Rob Walker, previously head of credit and risk at HSBC, to be chief executive of Sainsbury's bank.

He acknowledged that the bank "has had a difficult 12 months" but believes the company can be turned around. Tim Pile, the former head of the bank, was ousted last month. The bank plunged into the red in the last year and scrapped a three-year profit forecast of £90m, blaming bad loans made in the 1990s.

Mr Walker, 53, has worked at HSBC since 1975, building an expertise in credit risks. He will report to the chief financial officer Darren Shapland.

The bank is a joint venture with HSBC, but has struggled to compete with similar offerings from rivals such as Tesco.

Ms Ford is a former presenter of Tomorrow's World and one of the most recognisable faces in Britain. This is her first role on the board of a major company.

One of Ms Ford's famous quotes is: "The world men inhabit is rather bleak. It is a world full of doubt and confusion, where vulnerability must be hidden, not shared; where competition, not co-operation, is the order of the day; where men sacrifice the possibility of knowing their own children and sharing in their upbringing, for the sake of a job they may have chosen by chance, which may not suit them and which in many cases dominates their lives to the exclusion of much else."

The Sainsbury's board is undoubtedly bloke-ish. The company's executive directors, led by its chief executive Justin King, are all male. Of the non-executives, Bridget Macaskill is the only other woman.

Philip Hampton, the chairman, said: "The board has plenty of big company experience and Anna will bring different perspectives. She will take particular interest in our corporate responsibility issues but she also has a very independent background and character and I'm sure she will contribute widely."