October 1, 2019 / 6:54 AM / 18 days ago

WPP poaches Sainsbury's Rogers to be finance chief

LONDON (Reuters) - Advertising group WPP (WPP.L) has poached John Rogers, the boss of Sainsbury’s (SBRY.L) Argos business and previously seen as a frontrunner to be the British supermarket group’s next CEO, as its new finance chief.

FILE PHOTO: John Rogers, CEO of Sainsbury's Argos who is now moving to advertising group WPP, poses for a portrait at Sainsbury's headquarters in London, Britain, May 1, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville

He will take over early next year from outgoing CFO Paul Richardson at WPP, the world’s largest advertising group, which is still trying to recover after a string of profit warnings. Last month it appointed Keith Weed, the marketing head of Unilever, to its board.

Rogers had been seen by analysts as the favourite internal candidate to succeed Mike Coupe as chief executive of Sainsbury’s in due course.

He has held several senior posts at the supermarket group over the years, including chief financial officer from 2010 until 2016. He has also worked in China, India, Japan, South Africa, the United States and throughout Europe.

Shore Capital analyst Clive Black said Rogers’ move to WPP could be a sign that Coupe is staying put.

“To our minds, Rogers was the prime internal candidate to replace Mike Coupe... should the incumbent boss wish to hang up his boots. With this announcement, it’s maybe the clearest smoke signal yet that Coupe is going nowhere,” Black said.

Coupe, CEO since 2014, has been under pressure since Britain’s competition regulator in April blocked Sainsbury’s 7.3 billion pound agreed bid for Walmart-owned rival Asda. That pressure has been compounded by a 30% drop in Sainsbury’s share price over the last year.

Last week Coupe reaffirmed his commitment to leading Sainsbury’s, saying a major investor event he hosted was not a beauty contest for his potential replacement.

Shares in WPP were up 0.8% by 0916 GMT after news of Rogers’ appointment. Sainsbury’s shares were up 1%.

GROWTH STRATEGY

“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,” WPP CEO Mark Read said of Rogers’ appointment.

Rogers will be paid an annual salary of 740,000 pounds and will be eligible for an annual bonus of up to 225% of salary, a long-term incentive award of 300% of salary plus other benefits. He will also receive compensation for share-based and cash incentives he will forfeit on his exit from Sainsbury’s.

“Joining WPP was an opportunity impossible to resist,” he said.

Sainsbury’s said Rogers will leave the business on Oct. 31. It does not plan to replace him as its strategy is to bring the Argos and Sainsbury’s businesses closer together.

It said Argos’s retail and logistics teams will report into Simon Roberts, the group’s retail and operations director, and Argos’s commercial team will report into Paul Mills-Hicks, its commercial director.

Roberts and Mills-Hicks are also seen as contenders for Coupe’s job, along with finance chief Kevin O’Byrne.

Reporting by Kate Holton and James Davey, Editing by Paul Sandle and Susan Fenton

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