Sainsbury’s chairman Martin Scicluna and CEO Simon Roberts have paid tribute to the company’s president Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover, who has died at the age of 94.

In a statement, Scicluna detailed some of the highlights of Lord Sainsbury’s 40-year career. Lord Sainsbury started working in his family’s business in 1950, initially taking on a role in the grocery department. He became a director of the company in 1958, followed by deputy chairman in 1967, a role which he took over from his father. Finally in 1969, he was appointed chairman and chief executive until his retirement in 1992.

In 1980, Lord Sainsbury was knighted by Her Majesty the Queen for services to the food retailing industry. He was then made a life peer in 1989 and in 1992 was appointed as one of only 24 Knights of the Garter.

Scicluna said: “Under his stewardship we modernised our stores, developed our food ranges and floated Sainsbury’s on the London Stock Exchange in what was, at the time, the UK’s largest-ever initial public offering.

“In recent years, he hosted a visit by Her Majesty the Queen to celebrate the 150th anniversary of our business.”

Scicluna added that Lord Sainsbury “lived a remarkable life” and that he will be “greatly missed by the Board and all his friends and colleagues at Sainsbury’s. We send our condolences to Lord Sainsbury’s wife Lady Sainsbury and the rest of the Sainsbury family.”

“A shopkeeper to his core”

Simon Roberts, chief executive officer of Sainsbury’s, said: “All of us at Sainsbury’s are deeply saddened by the news that Lord Sainsbury has passed away. On behalf of Sainsbury’s colleagues past and present, I extend our heartfelt condolences to Lady Sainsbury and the rest of Lord John’s family. Lord Sainsbury was a shopkeeper to his core and one of the great retailers of his time. He was ambitious for the company and led Sainsbury’s through an unprecedented period of growth; he was a truly inspirational man. While he will be missed by many, his huge contribution to Sainsbury’s and the values he cared about and believed in so much will remain alive at the heart of our business.”