Steve Murrells has been named as successor to Richard Pennycook as chief executive of the Co-operative Group.
The appointment follows a long rise through the UK and European retail industry, which saw him join the Group as chief executive of the Co-operative Food in 2012.
Prior to that, he served as chief executive of Danish meat company, Tulip, from 2009 to 2012, having worked at Tesco from 2005-2009 as commercial director for fresh food and later chief operating officer for Dobbie’s Garden Centres, then owned by the retailer.
From 2000-2005 he occupied various senior roles at T&S convenience stores, culminating the role of chief executive.
Mr Murrells, 50, who lives in Prestbury, Cheshire, has a wife and three children – two grown-up sons and a young daughter – is credited with leading the Co-op Food through a turnaround which has seen it outperform the market for 18 consecutive periods.
Two years ago, discussing his decision to move from Tulip to the Group, he told the Guardian: “The brand was a sleeping giant that had lost its way… To be part of a turnaround team that could reconnect with a nation was a challenge I found compelling.”
That challenge got tougher when, a year after Mr Murrells joined the Group, the business was rocked by the discovery of a massive shortfall in the Co-op Bank’s finances.
But as head of the Group’s food retail arm, he led a 2,800 strong network of stores and logistics operations with more than 60,000 colleagues and a £7bn turnover.
He oversaw a new retail strategy focusing on convenience, with a turnaround that grew its market share saw it named by retail analysts Kantar as the “UK’s fastest growing non-discounter”.
Mr Murrells also led a revamp of own-brand food ranges with a focus on quality and lower prices, and led a programme to improve the look and feel of the store network, with 100 new convenience stores opening each year under his five-year plan to double the Group’s convenience chain in size.
He has served as board member and a senior executive at the Group, serving on the team that oversaw its Rebuild project, with a relaunched membership and revival of the classic blue clover-leaf logo.
Speaking in 2014, he described the turnaround as “arguably the biggest transformation programme that the Co-op food business has undertaken for many years”.
Interviewed by the Telegraph, he added that the new emphasis on convenience stores “plays really nicely with the new group purpose, which is championing a better way to do business for you and your community”.