Jan 17, 2022
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Ex-M&S and Sainsbury's chairmen die, both helped shape UK retail

Jan 17, 2022

Two key executives who helped to shape UK retail died in the last few days. Paul Myners — or Lord Myners of Truro — was the former chairman of M&S who was also a key player in stabilising the banking system at the time of the Global Financial Crisis.

Lord Sainsbury meets the Queen

And John Sainsbury — Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover — was the driving force behind his family’s supermarket chain for 23 years. Sainsbury’s is now one of the biggest sellers of fashion in the UK, as well as of food.

Lord Myners died aged 73. He worked his way up from humble beginnings, becoming a teacher and a journalist, before taking on a number of business roles. He held many prominent posts and as well as chairing M&S, he chaired Land Securities (Landsec), the property company that owns most of the Bluewater mall, among others locations.

But possibly his most important impact on UK consumers came in 2008 when Prime Minister Gordon Brown, brought him in to manage the UK’s response to the Global Financial Crisis as City minister. 

That response drew wide praise and Brown tweeted on news of his death that “he was a real tower of strength”.

Crucially too, he had earlier been at the helm of M&S as it fought off an attempt by Philip Green to take it over. In hindsight, that successful resistance looks to have been an even better move than it seemed at the time. 

Meanwhile, Lord Sainsbury has died aged 94. He was a member of the firm’s founding family and had retail in his blood. 

He was a hands-on (occasionally temperamental) boss with very high standards and lots of ideas. 

He became chairman in 1969 and stayed until the 1990s, then becoming Life President. During that time, the business went from having profits that were dwarfed by those of major names like Tesco and M&S to become the largest supermarket chain in Britain by 1992. He also pioneered the giant superstore format in the UK and launched the Homebase home improvement chain.

Like Lord Myners, Lord Sainsbury saw off a takeover attempt too, in this case leading the family resistance to a private equity takeover in 2007.

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