Tuesday 1 October 2019 9:01 am

Sainsbury's heir to the throne quits to join media powerhouse WPP

Sainsbury’s has confirmed the CEO of Argos is quitting the retail space to join advertising giant WPP as its new chief financial officer, sparking speculation that boss Mike Coupe is in for the long haul.

John Rogers, widely tipped as Coupe’s long-term successor, will leave the retailer on 31 October after almost 15 years at Sainsbury’s, but will not join WPP until early 2020.

Read more: Sainsbury’s shutters stores and quits UK mortgage market

“John has worked alongside me for over fourteen years and has made an outstanding contribution to the business,” Coupe said. “He leaves Sainsbury’s with our best wishes for the future.”

Rogers has spent the last three years as Argos chief exec, driving a digital transformation project that has led to 65 per cent of sales being made online.

He called the opportunity at WPP “too good to miss”.

“I look forward to being a part of WPP’s leadership team as it embarks on its new strategy for growth,” he added.

“As a technology-driven business with creativity at its heart, joining WPP was an opportunity impossible to resist and I look forward to playing my part in helping the business deliver its new strategy.”

WPP boss Mark Read said: “John is not only an accomplished CFO, but also a leader with extensive experience of business transformation. His priority will be to lead a finance function that best fosters investment in creativity, technology and talent in support of WPP’s new strategy for growth.”

Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com, called Rogers’ departure “a blow” due to his strong performance, and criticism of Coupe since Sainsbury’s Asda merger fell apart.

“Rogers had been tipped as the strongest candidate to take over from Mike Coupe. Indeed, it suggests Mike Coupe has dug his heals in and won’t be going anywhere for a while despite the botched Asda merger, horrible like-for-like sales, continued market share loss to discounters and the rather lacklustre strategy update last week.”

Read more: WPP appoints ex-Unilever ad chief to board

AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould added that Rogers’ decision to leave suggests Coupe is sticking around for a while to come.

“The exit of an obvious internal replacement for current CEO Mike Coupe could suggest the latter is staying put for some time despite the damage to his reputation from the failed merger with Asda,” he said.

“While Rogers’ retail experience might not make him an obvious fit for WPP at first glance, he will be familiar and have relationships with the companies behind the consumer brands in the company’s client base.

“He is also well used to the demands of being a senior executive at a major plc.

“For WPP it represents a further step on the path to recovery with the addition of Rogers completing the reset of the leadership of the group post the departure of founder Martin Sorrell.”

Argos’ retail and logistics teams will now report into retail and operations director Simon Roberts. The commercial team will report into commercial director Paul Mills-Hicks.