Sainsbury’s legal head quits for ‘something completely different’

J Sainsbury’s head of group legal services David Thurston has quit the struggling supermarket group after 18 years.

Thurston, who has been with Sainsbury’s in his current role for 11 years, will be leaving the supermarket giant later this year to pursue other interests. Although Thurston’s resignation coincides with the sharpest fall in Sainsbury’s profits in more than 135 years, sources close to Thurston claim his decision to leave was unrelated to the company’s continued woes.

During the past 18 months, Thurston has overhauled radically Sainsbury’s 21-strong in-house legal function as part of the supermarket’s three-year transformation programme.

As first reported in The Lawyer (26 April 2004), under the new structure, which came into effect at the beginning of April 2004, Sainsbury’s legal department has been split into three teams comprising advisory, property and operations. Prior to the reorganisation, the legal department was split according to each lawyer’s expertise.

Under Thurston’s leadership, Sainsbury’s also hired Katherine Kinch, its first-ever in-house property lawyer, in a bid to slash its legal spend in this area.

Commenting on his departure, Thurston said: “It’s all very amicable. I’m moving on because I want to do something completely different.”

Sainsbury’s has yet to identify a successor to Thurston and is looking both internally and externally for suitable candidates.