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Mike Coupe, the chief executive of J Sainsbury singing we're in the money

LONDON — When two huge brands decide to merge, the focus is usually on whether prices will go up and whether workers will lose jobs.

That was the case this week when two major chains in Britain, Sainsbury’s and Asda, said they were planning to join forces, potentially creating the country’s biggest supermarket operator. The companies did the usual dance: Groceries would be cheaper, stores would stay open, employees would keep their jobs.

Then Mike Coupe, the chief executive of J Sainsbury, began to sing.

Waiting to be interviewed for the British channel ITV News, Mr. Coupe, presumably unaware that the cameras were rolling, undercut the official line with an impromptu performance.

“We’re in the money,” he crooned. “The sky is sunny. Let’s lend it, spend it, send it rolling along.”

Intoning lines from a piece called “The Gold Diggers’ Song (We’re in the Money)” was probably not the best way to assuage concerns that shareholders might be making hay on the back of higher prices and job cuts. The song was first written for a 1933 film, but is perhaps most famously used in the musical “42nd Street.”

The reaction on Twitter was predictably acerbic.

Mr. Coupe quickly apologized. “This was an unguarded moment trying to compose myself before a TV interview,” he said. “It was an unfortunate choice of song, from the musical ’42nd Street’ which I saw last year, and I apologize if I have offended anyone.”

Some found it harder to see the lighter side. The GMB union, which represents workers in the retail sector, expressed indignation.

“What on earth will Asda workers who are worrying about their futures think when they see this?” the union said in a statement on Twitter. “It’s not only crass, it’s completely unprofessional and utterly insensitive.”

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