Belfast Telegraph

Co-op chief to depart in senior management shake-up

By Ben Woods

The Co-operative Group has embarked on a top-level shake-up that will see Richard Pennycook step down as group chief executive.

Mr Pennycook will make way for Steve Murrells, the chief executive of the group's food business, who will join the board on March 1.

In a statement, Co-op chairman Allan Leighton said the group owed Mr Pennycook a "huge debt of gratitude" for guiding the organisation on to firmer financial ground.

"Richard Pennycook saved our Co-op," he added. "In three short years, he has rescued and rebuilt our business and restored pride to our 70,000 colleagues and 4.5 million members."

"We owe Richard a huge debt of gratitude and his place in Co-op history is secured."

The move comes amid a raft of senior management changes, with group chief operating officer Pippa Wicks becoming deputy chief executive, and finance director Jo Whitfield stepping up to interim chief executive of Co-op Food.

Mr Pennycook, who first joined as interim chief executive in 2013, will continue to work as an adviser, including overseeing work to separate the group's pension scheme from the Co-op Bank.

The Co-op Group said that Mr Pennycook had guided the firm through the "rescue and rebuild" phases after the mutual came close to collapse.

Mr Murrells will now lead the organisation through a so-called "renewal" phase focused on growing the organisation.

"Leaving the Co-op was always going to be hard, but the time is right," Mr Pennycook said.

"The CEO who is to lead the renewal phase in 2018 has to be the CEO who builds the plan in 2017.

"In passing the baton to Steve, I leave safe in the knowledge that the Co-op will be taken forward by a leader who shares our vision of what can be achieved in the future."

Belfast Telegraph