Search on for the new Justin King at Sainsbury's

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The Independent Online

Sainsbury's has asked headhunters to form a succession plan ahead of Justin King's eventual departure as its chief executive, one of the most coveted roles in British business.

A report this weekend said chairman David Tyler has asked Egon Zehnder International to work on the plans, though Mr King will not leave for at least another year, giving him a decade at the helm during which he has been credited with turning the supermarket's fortunes around.

Commercial director Mike Coupe has already been touted as the likeliest internal candidate to fill King's big shoes: in its upcoming annual results, the CEO is likely to unveil a ninth successive year of profit growth.

A Sainsbury's spokeswoman said that Mr King remained "excited about the opportunities to grow and develop" Britain's third biggest supermarket chain, adding that talk of succession at this stage was "premature".