Co-operative Group chief executive Euan Sutherland has resigned after a stand-off with the organisation’s board. Chief financial officer Richard Pennycook has been appointed as interim chief executive.
A series of leaks over the past few weeks, led to a three hour emergency board meeting last night, where chair Ursula Lidbetter told directors that Mr Sutherland has tendered his resignation.
This morning, the BBC’s Robert Peston leaked details of that meeting, during which directors were looking at supporting a “management board” that would run parallel to an elected members board. Other leaks over the past few weeks include the intended sell-off of the farms business, alongside a proposed disposal of pharmacy.
Over the weekend, the Observer published a leaked paper from the remuneration committee that outlined a doubling of payments for executives on par with plcs. This led Mr Sutherland to criticise one or more individuals on the board for leaking these documents to “undermine” him.
In announcing his resignation from the Group, Mr Sutherland said: “It is with great sadness that I have resigned as chief executive. I have given my all to the business and had hoped to be able to lead its revival. However, I now feel that until the Group adopts professional and commercial governance it will be impossible to implement what my team and I believe are the necessary changes and reforms to renew the Group and give it a relevant and sustainable future.
“Saving the Co-operative Bank and with it the Co-operative Group from administration was a huge task, but the changes required do not stop there, with fundamental modernisation needed to safeguard the future for our 90,000 colleagues and millions of members.
“The Group must reduce its significant debt and drive major efficiencies and growth in all of its businesses, but to do so also urgently needs fundamental governance reform and a revitalised membership.
“I will not accept the retention payments and long term incentive payments previously agreed for the delivery and protection of value in the Group and the Bank, even though this was successfully delivered.
“I would like to thank all of the Co-op’s hard working colleagues for the support they have given me during my time. I wish them all well. The Co-operative has some wonderful people who deserve a great future.”
Ursula Lidbetter, chair of the Group, added: “It is with deep regret that I accept Euan’s resignation. Last year, Euan and his team saved the the Co-operative Bank, without recourse to the taxpayer, and in doing so rescued the Group from the biggest crisis in its 150-year history. They have worked night and day to renew the organisation and to give it a sustainable future.
“Euan’s resignation must now act as a catalyst for the real and necessary change which the Group must go through. I would like to thank Euan for his hard work and leadership and to wish him the very best for the future.
“I would also like to thank Richard for stepping up to lead the organisation at this critical juncture. We will start the process to appoint a permanent successor and urgently reform our governance.”
Mr Pennycook commented: “Our businesses continue to perform in line with the clear commercial plans put in place under Euan’s leadership and I and the team will plot a steady course in the coming months.”
In this article
- chair of the Group
- chief executive
- Chief Financial Officer
- Co-operative Bank
- Co-operative Group chief
- Co-operative Group chief executive
- Euan Sutherland
- interim chief executive
- Richard Pennycook
- The Co-operative Group
- Ursula Lidbetter
- United Kingdom
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