Obituary: Tom Agar, former Co-op Bank chair and Lincolnshire CEO

Tom Agar, 1931 to 2016 Lincolnshire Co-operative has released news of the death of Tom Agar, chief executive of the society from 1977 to 1992 and former chair of the Co-operative Bank....

Tom Agar, 1931 to 2016

Lincolnshire Co-operative has released news of the death of Tom Agar, chief executive of the society from 1977 to 1992 and former chair of the Co-operative Bank.

Mr Agar, who also served as a director of CWS, was born in County Durham and spent his entire career in the co-op movement.

His time at the head of the Lincolnshire saw the society enjoy a period of growth.

Current chief executive, Ursula Lidbetter, said: “Lincolnshire Co-op expanded significantly under Tom’s leadership with major acquisitions in dairy and pharmacy.

“His 15 years of stewardship gave us a strong financial base and his abilities were valued by the wider movement, especially during his time as a director of the CWS and as chairman of the Co-operative Bank.

“Throughout his retirement he retained his keen interest in Lincolnshire Co-op’s progress and was a friend and wise counsel to his many colleagues.”

Mr Agar, who came from a mining family, left school at the age of 14 – which landed his father with a £5 fine – and took a job as a grocery apprentice with the Crook Co-operative Society.

“Leaving school was a silly thing to do,” he recalled in an interview on his retirement in 1992, “but it worked out well so I have no regrets.”

After a break for national service with the RAF, he returned to Crook for an office job before rising through the co-operative movement in the 1950s to become deputy chief executive of the Guildford Society.

In 1964, he moved to the Lincoln Society, serving as deputy chief officer for 13 years before becoming CEO.

He was also elected to the CWS board, where he served on the Food Standing Committee, in 1980. In 1989, he was made chairman of the Co-operative Bank, where he had been a director for eight years.

He also served as president of Lincoln Chamber of Commerce from 1984-1986; as founder director Lincolnshire TEC; director of Lincoln and Gainsborough Adult Training Consortium and chair of Investors in Lincoln, a private/public partnership to revitalise neglected parts of the city.

Over the course of his career, he received many honours, becoming a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Secretaries and Administrators, Companion of the British Institute of Management and a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers.

At the time of his appointment as Bank chair, he told the press his recipe for success was “mainly hard work plus whatever ability you can muster”.

He showed similar modesty, and lifelong dedication to the movement, when he retired from the Lincolnshire Society.

He told an interviewer: “I have worked for 47 years in the co-operative movement… and I have done all I set out to do.

“This is not a job, it is a way of life – you work whenever it is necessary.”

But, he added, “it is not all down to one man, it never can be – it is a team effort.”

  • Tom Agar’s funeral takes place on 13th January in Lincoln. For details contact Lincolnshire Co-operative Funeral Services on 01522 534971.
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