Sainsbury's choice of successor leaves City cold

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The Independent Online

Institutional investors yesterday attacked J Sainsbury's decision to appoint Sir Ian Prosser as its next chairman, which was sprung on them without consultation.

The former head of Bass, who endured a public drubbing at the hands of the entrepreneur Hugh Osmond last year, is to join the struggling supermarket group as deputy chairman at the end of next month, along with Justin King, the chief executive-elect.

Sir Ian, 60, who is also deputy chairman of BP and on the boards of GlaxoSmithKline, Boots and Lloyds TSB, will eventually succeed Sir Peter Davis, who steps up to become chairman on his arrival.

One leading shareholder said they were "surprised" by Sir Ian's appointment, alluding to his poor track record at Bass, the brewing giant that finally bowed to the City by splitting into its constituent hotel and pub arms last year. "We have a number of reservations about the choice of Sir Ian Prosser and have contacted the company with a view to arranging a meeting to discuss these," the shareholder added.

Following the outcry that greeted Standard Chartered's decision to appoint him as Sir Patrick Gillam's successor last year, Sir Ian opted not to join the emerging-markets bank.

Shares in Sainsbury's, under siege from its rivals Tesco, Asda and the soon-to-be-enlarged Wm Morrison, fell 2.5 per cent to 281.5p on the news. One retail analyst said Sir Ian would compensate for Mr King's lack of boardroom experience, adding: "They have probably had to hunt high and low to find someone of any calibre who would accept the job."

Sir Ian will initially be paid £150,000 a year for working one to two days a week as deputy chairman. This will increase to £350,000 a year for up to three days a week when he takes over as chairman in July 2005.