Is John Rogers the next CEO of Sainsbury's?

The supermarket's finance boss is heading off to run Argos. Perfect training for the top job?

by Jack Torrance
Last Updated: 10 Jun 2016

Sainsbury’s takeover of Argos owner Home Retail Group hasn’t been approved by the competition regulator but it has already announced its new subsidiary will have a new boss. In a sign of how seriously it is taking the aquisition John Rogers, the grocer’s CFO, will take over from the outgoing John Walden when the deal completes – which is expected to happen in the next few months.

Having only taken over from Justin King at the start of 2014, current Sainsbury’s chief exec Mike Coupe probably won’t be popping off anytime soon – not least because he seems to be outperforming his competitors at Tesco and Morrisons. But this looks like a bit of succession planning.

The finance director’s seat is a common route to becoming CEO, and with good reason. An expert understanding of where the business is financially, not to mention a good head for figures, is a big asset for somebody who wants to get to the top. But the top job requires more than somebody who spends all their time engrossed in spreadsheets.

Read more: The MT interview - Sainsbury's boss Mike Coupe

As boss of Home Retail Rogers, who has been with Sainsbury’s since 2005, will face the mammoth task of integrating Argos with the supermarket’s non-food business. That won't be easy, but if he succeeds then it will help prove to shareholders and the board that he is more than just a 'finance guy'.

Rogers used to lead Sainsbury’s property team and previously worked at Monitor, the management consultancy co-founded by strategy guru Michael Porter, so he’s already got a decent amount of non-finance experience. And he’s going to remain on the supermarket’s board, giving him the ear of chairman David Tyler and an insight into where the business is going.

Don’t bet on Mike Coupe jumping ship any time soon – he’s got to make a success of the Home Retail acquisition if he wants to leave Sainsbury’s with a strong legacy in his wake. But when he does it won’t be surprising to see Rogers step up to the plate.

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