Asda has poached one of rival Sainsbury’s top executives as competition among the supermarket chains heats up.
Sainsbury’s retail and operations director Roger Burnley is jumping ship to take up the role of chief operating officer at Asda, the Walmart-owned group announced this morning.
The appointment comes after Asda reported its worst ever quarterly result in the 16 years it has been owned by its US parent company, blaming intense competition among its grocery rivals.
Pressure has been mounting on chief executive Andy Clarke to revive dwindling sales, who described the results as the supermarket's "nadir".
The company has been searching for a chief operating officer to help him steer Asda back on course since January this year.
Burnley previously worked alongside Clarke at Asda between 1996 and 2002, where he was supply chain director and was involved in helping to integrate the Leeds-based retailer into Walmart its acquisition in 1999.
They were also colleagues at Matalan, having moved over to the budget retail chain at the same time from Asda in 2002.
"These are times of unprecedented turbulence for our industry. While we are not immune from the effects of this, we are fortunate to be part of a healthy, sustainable business with a clear strategy for success," Clarke said.
"Adding Roger to Asda's executive team further strengthens the board which, I believe, is now one of the most experienced and capable in the industry. I am looking forward to working with him again, this time as my deputy."
Because he is employed by a direct competitor, Asda said it will be some time next year before Burnley joins the company. Sainsbury's said in a statement Burnley had left the grocer with immediate effect and that a search for his successor was underway.
Sainsbury's chief executive Mike Coupe added: “I would like to thank Roger for his significant contribution to Sainsbury’s over the last decade. During his time at Sainsbury’s Roger has helped shape several areas of our business. He leaves Sainsbury’s retail and operations teams in excellent shape, along with our best wishes for the future."