Justin King CBE
Best known for:
Prolific retail business leader and advisor, former CEO Sainsbury's.
With over thirty years of experience working in and leading large businesses, Justin brings in-depth knowledge of retail transformation and operations as well as a good historic understanding of the M&S business and values. Justin is currently Vice Chairman of Terrafirma, where he acts as an adviser to the General Partner. Prior to this, Justin was the CEO of Sainsbury’s between 2004 and 2014, where he led the business through a major turnaround which led to nine years of profit growth. Before joining Sainsbury’s, Justin was Head of Food at Marks & Spencer where he was one of the pioneers of the development of the Simply Food business. He held prior roles at Asda, Haagen-Dazs, PepsiCo and Mars and was a board member of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Justin was also a member of the UK Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Group.
Justin served as CEO of the retail giant for a decade, leading the 145-year old brand through huge shifts from the growth of online to the rise of discounters. He also pushed through the Nectar card, partnered with Jamie Oliver and brought in small convenience stores. In a down-to-earth style Justin weighs up the task of reviving true customer loyalty and bringing about culture change in large organisations: “It can be like an elastic band tied to a heavy object.
Justin King served as CEO of J Sainsbury for a decade. At the time one of the youngest CEOs in FTSE 100 history, Justin’s time in charge is seen as one of the great success stories of modern British business. He’s now vice-chair of private equity firm Terra Firma overseeing a portfolio that stretches from cinema chains to garden centres.
Sainsbury’s was losing market share and, despite huge investment, struggling to compete with its rivals when Justin was appointed Chief Executive. Taking difficult and sometimes controversial decisions, he launched a company-wide overhaul. After only a year in the role, he reported the first improvement in quarterly sales figures for more than two years. Pioneering dramatic changes in the relationship between management and staff, he introduced a ‘tell Justin’ scheme to encourage feedback from employees and even manned a checkout during the Christmas rush. Four years after taking charge, Sainsbury’s reported twelve consecutive quarters of growth and hit its sales targets ahead of time.
Justin led Sainsbury’s during huge shifts in the retail and supermarket landscape including diversifying into general merchandise, the rise of online shopping and of discount retailers, the move into smaller, convenience stores, and a cut-throat price war between rivals Tesco and Asda. Sainsbury’s steered a path balancing quality and price and moved quickly into online and convenience shopping.
Prior to Sainsbury’s Justin began his career as a marketing trainee with Mars before moving on to Pepsi and Haagen-Dazs. He then moved to Asda as MD and later ran M&S’s food division. Justin also returned to M&S as a non-executive director, reuniting with Archie Norman alongside whom he helped turn around Asda’s fortunes.
In speeches Justin tackles the vagaries of leadership, including his list of ‘ten Cs’ for great leadership. He also considers his personal journey and the lessons it’s delivered, as well as ethical business. He was a board member of LOCOG from 2009 to 2013 and has also served as a member of the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Group. He was named Most Admired Business Leader by Management Today and as Britain’s Most Impressive Businessman in the IPSOS-MORI Captains of Industry Report. Justin was also a member of the UK Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Group.
Justin sits on the Public Interest Body of PWC and was awarded a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in 2011.