Lord Sainsbury praises Justin King as he bows out after 10 years

And supermarket giant also taunts rival Tesco over succession plans

Sainsbury’s life-president, Lord Sainsbury, made a rare public appearance to lead the tributes to Justin King, the supermarket’s outgoing chief executive, whose 10 years at the helm came to an end.

The 86-year-old great grandson of Sainsbury’s founders, and chairman of the firm for 23 years, said: “I’d like to congratulate him on his achievements, hard work and inspiration on turning Sainsbury’s around and making it great again. Thank you, Justin.”

He was joined by Sainsbury’s chairman, David Tyler, who told shareholders at the company’s annual general meeting how Mr King steered the group through the financial crisis.

The meeting passed off with few incidents and the usual range of bizarre questions, including one shareholder asking how many ducks are thrown away by the supermarket; another wanted to know why the age of the board members was not in the annual report.

Other more serious questions raised included asking the company whether it would introduce the living wage, stop displaying tabloid newspapers with Page 3 girls, and end the use of suppliers who operate from the West Bank – an issue highlighted by several protesters outside the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster.

But Mr King’s imminent departure overshadowed much of the meeting.

Mr Tyler said: “So, what has Justin’s leadership meant for us, the shareholders? Well, it has meant over £10bn in incremental sales, and a return to healthy, sustainable profits.  It has also meant a total shareholder return of 85 per cent over the past 10 years, and this at a time when the protracted financial crisis, from which we are only now emerging, played havoc with consumer confidence and share prices in the sector.”

Mr Tyler also made a veiled attack on Tesco, by pointing out Mr King had left a strong management team in place from internal appointments, unlike its larger rival when Sir Terry Leahy quit after 14 years as the boss.

Several shareholders also thanked Mr King, with some asking him to stay. Another shareholder said: “I was at the M&S AGM yesterday and I was wondering if Justin could come and fix it for us?”

During the meeting, Mike Coupe, who is taking over from Mr King, revealed that he plans to follow many of the ideas pursued by his predecessor, and at several points throughout the meeting Mr King appeared to answer questions on behalf of his successor.

On his time with Mr King, the new chief executive said: “It is an honour and privilege to take over the leadership of the company you have led with such courage and inspiration over the past 10 years.”

But along his words of  praise, Mr Coupe warned he expected his time at the top will see customers’ habits change even faster than previously, and neither he nor Mr Tyler addressed how they plan to reverse the past six months of falling sales.

Mr Tyler revealed that a new joint venture with Danish firm Dansk, to return Netto to the high street in an attempt to challenge the dominance of discounters Aldi and Lidl, will mean 15 stores are to open by the end of next year.

“The first 15 stores will open in the north of England by the end of 2015 and will offer customers a strong value proposition with a focus on fresh foods and with a distinct Scandinavian twist,” Mr Tyler said. The company had previously committed to only five stores opening by the end of 2014.

Once the meeting ended, dozens of shareholders rushed to the stage to thank Mr King personally, posing for photos and selfies and asking for autographs.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Voices
The male menopause: those affected can suffer hot flushes, night sweats, joint pain, low libido, depression and an increase in body fat, among other symptoms
voicesSo the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Anna Smaill’s debut novel, The Chimes, is a fusion of fantasy and romance
booksMan Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Sport
Ji So-Yun scores the only goal of the game
sport
Arts and Entertainment
One of the Pyongyang posters, the slogan of which reads: ‘Let the exploits of the northern railway conductors shine!’
art
Life and Style
Linguine with mussels and fresh tomatoes
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Administrator

£13000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about custom...

Recruitment Genius: Dialler Administrator

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Main purpose: Under the directi...

Ashdown Group: Contracts Manager - City of London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Contracts Manager - City...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
RuPaul interview: The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head

RuPaul interview

The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head
Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

Secrets of comedy couples

What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?
Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
The best swimwear for men: From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer

The best swimwear for men

From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer