December 11, 2018
By James Davey
LONDON (Reuters) – British clothing and food retailer Marks & Spencer <MKS.L> has hired Justin King, the former boss of supermarket chain Sainsbury’s <SBRY.L>, as a non-executive director, adding another big-name industry veteran to its board.
M&S said on Tuesday that King, one of Britain’s best known businessmen, would take up his new role on Jan. 1. Shares in the firm were up 1 percent at 1355 GMT.
After a decade of failed reinventions, the 134-year-old M&S is now targeting sustainable, profitable growth in three to five years by shutting less-successful stores. It warned last month that sales were unlikely to improve any time soon.
King is best known for leading the revival of Sainsbury’s as chief executive over ten years. He delivered over 10 billion pounds ($12.7 billion) in incremental sales, a near-tripling in earnings and total shareholder return of 85 percent, before stepping down in 2014.
Prior to that, he was director of food at M&S and before that was part of the leadership team at supermarket group Asda, where he worked with Archie Norman, another turnaround specialist who is now M&S’s chairman.
“Justin is recognized as one of the UK’s most successful retail leaders,” said M&S.
King has been vice-chairman of private equity firm Terra Firma since 2015, although it was reported by Sky News earlier this month that he was stepping back from day-to-day management of the buyout group.
When he quit Sainsbury’s he said he wanted another big job. That is yet to materialize.
Analysts said that given King’s history his appointment will increase the pressure on chief executive Steve Rowe, an M&S lifer, and on new food managing director Stuart Machin.
Analysts speculated that should Norman lose patience with either he would have a ready-made replacement in King, although Britain’s corporate governance guidelines advise against moving a non-executive director to an executive role.
“Having worked there 15 years ago, M&S has a very special place in my affections,” said King. “I look forward to joining the board and supporting Steve in the turnaround that he is leading.”
(Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Sarah Young and Mark Potter)