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Former Sainsbury Chief Becomes Vice Chairman of Terra Firma

justin kingFormer J. Sainsbury chief Justin King has been appointed as the vice chairman of Terra Firma Capital Partners, a major shareholder in companies such as Wyevale Garden Centers, Odeon UCI Cinemas, and Four Seasons Health Care. A reliable source says that his appointment will be formally announced today.

King’s appointment comes at a time when Guy Hands, the man behind Terra Firma, is literally struggling to revive his fortunes after he lost EMI Music to Citigroup in 2011. The arrival of King will be seen as a landmark moment for the firm. Ever since 2007, the company has not raised new funds, but now it can finally think of doing so. An investor for Terra Firma, said: “Hiring Justin King is a game-changer for them.”

Justin King will be working through the portfolio of Terra Firma and making changes to it in the following six months. The Odeon Group will be either floated or sold. King, who had transformed the fortunes of Sainsbury to the better when he was its chief for nearly 10 years, is expected to do the same at Terra Firma too.

Last year, King had announced that he would quit Sainsbury, the third largest supermarket in the UK by sales. After this he had worked as an advisor for 2 Sisters Food Group and Manor Grand Prix. He also agreed to head a review of the customer welfare policies of the tour operator Thomas Cook, following the deaths of two holidaying British kids in 2006.

King is not the only public company chief to quit his job in favor of a private equity career. Sir Terry Leahy quit Tesco and joined Clayton Dubilier & Rice, a company based in the US. Some of those who have taken up private equity jobs after leaving public companies say that they were motivated to do so because of opportunities to earn more.

Terra Firma lost billions of pounds and damaged its reputation severely after Hands filed a case against Citigroup. However, the company sold some of its assets and repaid several of its investors recently. The firms it has already invested in are neither doing too good nor too bad. For instance, its Four Seasons, an operator of care homes, is not expected to profit much because of the new living wage implemented by the UK government.

James Hyde of a major recruitment company called Flint Hyde had taken care of King’s appointment.

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