Asda’s incoming chief operating officer Simon King will complete the grocer’s management team and his arrival is hoped to be a catalyst for its return to form, observers say.
King, who previously worked at Tesco and Safeway, joins on January 10, largely taking up the brief vacated by Andy Clarke when he succeeded Andy Bond in May as chief executive. King will have responsibility for retail, supply chain, distribution, customer service and internal communications.
One industry source said King was a “natural leader, with a good style”, while a former colleague described him as “inspirational”.
A second former colleague said: “King is very ambitious and commercial, and able to think outside the box. He should be well placed to help drive Asda’s much-needed return to form.”
Asda has been lagging behind its competitors since the start of the year, with management admitting it had become too promotional. It has since launched a series of initiatives to claw back market share.
King is currently chief executive of supermarket and hypermarket operator Panda Retail, a subsidiary of The Savola Group, based in Saudi Arabia. Until 2009 he was chief executive of Tesco Kipa in Turkey, and also ran several of Tesco’s international operations including those in South Korea and Poland.
The industry source said King was one of Tesco chief executive Sir Terry Leahy’s “boys”, which will mean he understands the Tesco model, but that the Asda role might be “a stretch”. It is unclear why King left Tesco but the source said Turkey was a “tough market”.
King’s background means he has experience of multi-formats and new markets. However, the second former colleague said King’s Asda role may not play to his strengths as he was “a trader at heart” and not an operating expert.
Clarke described King as a “strategic leader and a day-to-day operator in large complex retail businesses”.
The move completes Asda’s management line up, following the appointment of Charles Redfield, senior vice-president for food and beverage at Walmart-owned Sam’s Club, as its chief merchandising officer in April.