City derides Sainsbury's boardroom reshuffle

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The Independent Online

SAINSBURY'S unveiled a boardroom reshuffle yesterday as part of an attempt to revitalise its ailing supermarket business, which is losing ground to Tesco and Asda. However, Sainsbury's shares fell as analysts criticised the changes as "a rearranging of the deckchairs".

SAINSBURY'S unveiled a boardroom reshuffle yesterday as part of an attempt to revitalise its ailing supermarket business, which is losing ground to Tesco and Asda. However, Sainsbury's shares fell as analysts criticised the changes as "a rearranging of the deckchairs".

David Bremner, deputy chief executive, has become head of the key UK supermarket business. Dino Adriano stays on as chief executive contrary to speculation earlier this week that he was poised to quit.

The other change is that Sainsbury's has finally completed its long search for afinance director to replace Rosemary Thorne. The new director is Roger Matthews, who will join the group next month from Compass, the catering group where he was managing director and finance director.

Mr Adriano denied that he has been marginalised by the changes and further dismissed suggestions of a split between himself and Mr Bremner, who was previously head of the Homebase DIY operations and Sainsbury's businesses in the United States.

"In my discussions with our institutional shareholders I have made it clear that I would redefine the roles at a point of my choosing. This is my decision," Mr Adriano said.

He denied that the ground was being prepared for his departure. "I'm 56 so I'm not going to go on forever. But I am intent on seeing this great company come through and start moving ahead. I am not going before that."

Andrew Stoddart, food retail analyst at Investec Henderson Crosthwaite, said: "This is positive indecision. They have effectively come up with a way of not resolving the discord at the top."

Another analyst said: "It seems an odd way to run a company. It is as if the board is split down the middle and I don't believe anyone will see these changes as a step forward."

Mr Adriano said the Sainsbury family was supportive of the management's strategy. He said the competition had intensified following the takeover of Asda by Wal-Mart and that Sainsbury's needed to improve. "We need to increase the pace of change," he said.

Analysts said Mr Bremner's track record did not make him obviously qualified to revive Sainsbury's fortunes in the face of the twin onslaught from Tesco and Asda. They pointed to his period as chief executive of Watson & Philip, the convenience store chain which, now renamed Alldays, has been forced to undertake a financial restructuring.

They said Sainsbury's non-executive chairman, Sir George Bull, had missed the opportunity to bring in new faces by opting for a "fudged" solution.

Sainsbury's is due to issue a trading update on 27 October ahead of its interim results. The shares fell 6p to 374.75p.

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