Justin King, the former boss of Sainsbury’s, has confirmed he is joining Terra Firma in his first major role since leaving the supermarket chain.
King will become vice-chairman and head of portfolio businesses at the private equity firm, which owns Odeon & UCI Cinemas Group and Wyevale garden centres.
Terra Firma, which is led by the tax exile Guy Hands, suffered a major setback in 2011 when the record label EMI was taken over by Citigroup, its main creditor, after a bruising legal battle. Hands is seeking more than £2bn in damages from the bank, with a trial scheduled for next year in the UK.
King, who is thought to have taken a shareholding in Terra Firma, will be given the task of revitalising the company. He will provide it with a high-profile name to help raise new funds for major deals, as well as run its businesses.
Hands, the chairman and chief investment officer of Terra Firma, said it was a “great fit for both sides”.
“Terra Firma has been transforming businesses for over 20 years and currently has a diverse portfolio of businesses in various stages of development. Justin has turned around and run businesses in various sectors,” he said.
King ran Sainsbury’s for a decade until last year and is credited with turning the retailer around. It was suffering from tumbling sales and profits when he took over, but saw its like-for-like sales rise for nine consecutive years under his leadership.
King, who also worked for Marks & Spencer, Asda and Mars, said he was delighted to be joining Terra Firma. The role is his first full-time job since leaving Sainsbury’s and means he follows in the footsteps of the former Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy, who is also working in private equity with the US firm Clayton Dubilier & Rice.
He has already taken advisory roles with Manor Marussia Formula One team Grand Prix and 2 Sisters Food Group, the owner of Fox’s Biscuits. He is also leading a review of Thomas Cook’s customer and welfare practices after the death of two children on one of its holidays.
King said: “I am looking forward to working with Guy and the team and to playing my part in Terra Firma’s hands-on approach to transforming businesses.”
He joins Terra Firma despite describing tax as “first and foremost a moral issue” in a speech last year.
Hands has been based in Guernsey for tax reasons since 2009, making him arguably the City of London’s highest-profile tax exile. He and his wife Julie are estimated to be worth £250m.
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