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Sainsbury’s has announced its chief executive Mike Coupe will retire from the supermarket group. Mr Coupe has led Sainsbury’s for almost six years, during which time he oversaw a failed attempt to merge with rival supermarket Asda.

The head of Sainsbury’s retail and operations, Simon Roberts, will take over from Mr Coupe. “This has been a very difficult decision for me personally,” Mr Coupe said.

“There is never a good time to move on, but as we and the industry continue to evolve, I believe now is the right time for me to hand over to my successor.”

Mr Coupe’s departure comes after he said last May he would be “sticking to the company” when asked whether he had been asked to step down after the failed merger.

“I’m planning to stay,” he said at the time. Mr Coupe will step down as chief executive at the end of May and retire from Sainsbury’s in July.

His exit was announced a day after Sainsbury’s said it was cutting “hundreds” of management roles to reduce costs. It said the cuts were largely due to its integration of Argos, which it bought in 2016, into the business.

Mr Roberts, who is due to take over on 1 June, has been involved in integrating Sainsbury’s and Argos. He was also the former president of retailer Boot UK.

In a statement, Mr Coupe said he was “confident” his chosen successor was “the right choice for our customers, our colleagues and our investors”.

Mr Coupe will continue to collect his £962,000 a year salary until he leaves. His successor will begin the role with a smaller £875,000 pay cheque.

Questions about Mr Coupe’s future at Sainsbury’s began circling in April last year, after the UK competition regulator blocked its proposed £7.3bn tie up with Asda.

Before that – and head of a media interview to discuss the deal – Mr Coupe was caught on camera singing “We’re in the money”.

“This was an unguarded moment trying to compose myself before a TV interview,” he said in a statement at the time.

The supermarket’s share price surged after the deal was first announced in 2018. But the value of shares has fallen by 22% in the past year. On Wednesday, its share price fell by 1.3% to 210p.

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