Asda has poached Sainsbury’s retail and operations director Roger Burnley as its new chief operating officer.
The move will place Mr Burnley among the leading candidates to succeed Asda chief executive Andy Clarke when he decides to step down from the role.
Leeds-based Asda described Mr Burnley as a “highly regarded and experienced retailer”.
He has previously worked alongside Mr Clarke at both Asda and Matalan before he joined Sainsbury’s, where he was responsible for the performance of 160,000 staff across superstores, convenience stores and logistics.
“We couldn’t have got anybody with a better retail pedigree than Roger, particularly because he is a former colleague”, said Mr Clarke.
“These are times of unprecedented turbulence for our industry. Whilst 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.“
The big four supermarkets are fighting a fierce price battle with German discounters Aldi and Lidl in a bid to win back shoppers.
Asda recently posted its worst ever quarterly sales figures, although unlike its rivals its profits are holding up.
“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,” said Mr Clarke.
Mr Burnley has held a number of senior leadership positions across commercial and operational functions of retail businesses.
He worked at Asda between 1996 and 2002, latterly as supply chain director prior to which he was part of the core team responsible for integrating Asda into American parent Wal-Mart following the acquisition in 1999.
Asda began searching for a chief operating officer in January this year after Mr Clarke made changes to the executive board. Mr Burnley will not be able to join Asda until next year as he was employed by a direct competitor.
Sainsbury’s said he had left the group with immediate effect.
It said the recruitment of a successor is underway and it will make an announcement in due course. In the interim period, CEO Mike Coupe will assume responsibility for the role.
Mr Coupe said: “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 & operations teams in excellent shape, along with our best wishes for the future.”