Sainsbury has removed 133.1 million shares from a blind trust and put them into his own name, leaving about 105 million shares - or 6.1 per cent of the company - in the trust. The stake was worth£684 million at yesterday's closing share price of 514.25 p.
The former Government minister's shares were held in the trust while he was a member of the Government, to avoid any conflict of interest. When he resigned in November, it was announced that his shares would remain there for three months, after which he would gain control.
There is speculation that members of the Sainsbury family might be willing to sell their shares to private equity buyers. Lord Sainsbury did not comment yesterday.
In the past few weeks, private equity firms CVC, Blackstone and KKR have said they are considering a bid for the supermarket chain. However, banking sources have speculated that Apax - which owns Somerfield - could also be considering a rival bid.