David Parkin on what is driving Justin King and getting a chauffeur rather than On The Buses

I HAD the opportunity to host a question and answer session with former Sainsbury’s chief executive Justin King last week.

Our audience were senior figures from Jaguar Land Rover dealerships across the North and, arriving at Rudding Park for the event, I quickly decided to park my car in the far corner of the car park, away from the rows of gleaming 15-registration plated Jaguar XEs, F-types, XF’s and Range Rover Vogues, Sports and Evoques.

Justin King, probably one of the most successful executives in grocery retail in recent years, stepped down from the top job at Sainsbury’s last year.

While saying he is weighing up his options on his next move, he is still keeping pretty busy.

When he arrived at Rudding he’d come straight from speaking at a retail conference in South Africa the day before.

He is currently leading an independent review into the travel company Thomas Cook after two children died on one of its holidays.

Christi and Bobby Shepherd died from carbon monoxide poisoning at a hotel in Corfu 2006, and Thomas Cook received fierce criticism over its response to the deaths.

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the whole episode was a PR disaster for the holiday company, but he will be addressing more than just its reputational damage.

And earlier this year he became the interim chairman of the Manor Marussia Formula One racing team.

While he has always been a self-confessed ‘petrol-head’, King, given his business background, he has already been forced to deny rumours that he is after Bernie Ecclestone’s role running F1.

During our chat his enthusiasm for Formula One was clear, with him illustrating the tiny margins involved in success and failure for drivers and their cars at the top level.

He also highlighted his son Jordan’s involvement in motor racing with the 21-year-old having recently moved up from Formula 3 to compete GP2 with the long-term ambition of making it to the promised land of F1.

While his decade running Sainsbury’s is what many like to talk about, Justin King is quick to point to the experience he gained earlier in his career as a graduate trainee with Mars before helping launch Häagen-Dazs ice cream as a “sexy brand” selling for about three times the price of any other ice cream in the UK and then moving to Asda where he worked among the talented cohort who supported golden boys Archie Norman and Allan Leighton.

What his next move is will be interesting. Is he finished with full-time executive roles?

May be he fancies the portfolio life taken up so successfully by his former mentor Leighton, who memorably left Asda to “go plural”.


IT hasn’t gone unnoticed (by me, anyway) that this column has mentioned the passing of many well known people in recent weeks.

Last week I saw that Stephen Lewis, the actor that played one of my favourite comedy characters, Blakey from On The Buses, had died.

“Get that bus out” and “I ‘ate you Butler” – two comedy gold catchphrases for a certain generation.

This week I read that former Yorkshire Post journalist Andrew Alexander had died recently at the age of 80.

He started his career on the YP, but was much better known for his later achievements on the Daily Mail where was a parliamentary sketch writer and later became City Editor and columnist.

I never met Andrew but his passing did remind me of the golden age of journalism – where newspapers were so successful that their staff enjoyed good salaries, hefty expenses (often self-inflated) and plenty of perks.

As a regional business journalist I once went on an overseas trip hosted by a then stock market listed group that owned airports. They ensured high take-up from City scribblers and analysts thanks to the itinerary which saw us spend a couple of hours looking round Cardiff and Belfast airports before heading for three days in Florida to look at the recently acquired Sanford International Airport in Orlando.

In between karaoke nights at Disney World and hefty servings of ‘surf and turf” along International Drive in Orlando, I chatted to the other journalists, one of whom wrote the stock market report in the Daily Mail.

He told me that City Editor Andrew Alexander was so well paid he could afford a country pile in the Home Counties complete with peacocks strutting around the grounds and was also provided with a chauffeur-driven car by his employers.

The Mail’s City office was then based rather bizarrely in Drury Lane in London’s theatre land. That wasn’t really convenient for company results announcements in the Square Mile, but good for Andrew Alexander’s daily dining at the Savoy Grill.

He was ferried there by his chauffeur every lunch time and apparently because of the one-way system it took about 15 minutes to reach by car.

Whereas on foot it would have only taken about three minutes.

Have a great weekend.


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