Co-op Group must change, says former chief executive

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FORMER Co-operative Group boss Euan Sutherland has said he hopes his decision to quit will act as the catalyst for change among reluctant officials at the embattled mutual.

In an interview with the BBC, Mr Sutherland said that, while many elected officials on the Co-op’s board would “talk the talk”, he feared they would never back proposals for fundamental change at the group.

But he hoped his departure would force through reforms needed.

His acrimonious split from the Co-op this week, after less than a year in the role, has left the group without a permanent boss and facing the biggest governance overhaul in its history.

Mr Sutherland resigned on Monday, claiming the group was “ungovernable”.

His decision came after he used an extraordinary Facebook post at the weekend to blame 
“an individual, or individuals” at the top of the group for deliberately seeking to undermine him by revealing details of his £3.66m pay deal to a Sunday newspaper.

He told the BBC that, while the pay leak had proved the final straw, he had long considered standing down, alleging that some of the elected officials - or so-called senior democrats - at the Co-op had deliberately sought to frustrate his reforms to governance.

It was the latest in a long line of leaks to the press, he claimed yesterday.

“The senior democrats talk the talk of reform, but in practice they won’t do it,” he said.

“My hope is that from the resignation will come healthy reform,” he added.

His departure has already sparked a major overhaul of the Co-op management structure, with the group agreeing in an emergency call on Monday 
night to abolish the board in favour of a new “plc’’ style board including only executive and 
non-executive directors, responsible for taking commercial decisions.

He has been replaced on an interim basis by chief financial officer Richard Pennycook, who was previously the finance director at Bradford-based supermarket chain Morrisons.

The Co-operative Group has strong historic links with Yorkshire, where it employs around 7,600 people.

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