Allan Leighton has been confirmed as the new chairman of The Co-operative Group, who revealed that Leighton has instructed for his £250,000 salary for the role should be donated to The Co-operative Foundation.
His appointment follows press speculation earlier this month that the former Asda chief executive was being lined up for the role.
He becomes the first chairman of The Co-op following the society’s overhaul of its corporate governance and will replace Ursula Lidbetter – who has been in the role since November 2013 and is also chief executive of Lincolnshire Co-operative Society.
Leighton, whose father ran a The Co-op store, left Asda in 2000 – famously declaring he was “going plural” to take up a number of non-executive roles at companies including Selfridges, BSkyB, Royal Mail and Pandora.
The Co-op Group chief executive Richard Pennycook told The Grocer Allan’s appointment was “the most important development since the approval of the governance in August”.
It has already appointed Sir Christopher Kelly and Simon Burke as independent non-executive directors, and Pennycook has also been appointed to the board. Pennycook said Leighton would “fill in the rest of the board”, which will eventually total 11, including six non-execs, three ‘member’ directors and two executive directors.
“With the appointment of Allan, I am quite certain that the calibre of the board will be world class, we’ll get a fantastically well qualified group of individuals,” Pennycook added.
“Allan’s father ran the local Co-op. If you look at what he’s done, he’s worked for family companies, he’s been chairman of the Royal Mail, so you can’t paint him as a plc man or an arch capitalist. His background is varied as well as plural. I’m sure he will make a great chairman of The Co-op, and will build a world class board.”
Leighton said: “I am delighted and privileged to be taking up this role. I grew up with this business, because my father ran the local Co-op, so I have a very real understanding of the importance of The Co-operative to local communities and a strong sense of what the society stands for. I look forward to working with our members, customers and colleagues as we continue the crucial work to rebuild The Co-operative Group and restore it to its rightful place at the heart of communities up and down the UK.”
Sir Christopher added: “The appointment of our first independent non-executive chair is a highly significant moment for The Co-op Group. We are delighted to have a figure of Allan’s experience and standing to head our reformed governance structure. We held a thorough and wide-ranging process to appoint our first chair under the new governance framework and Allan was the outstanding candidate. He has long championed the power of business to benefit local communities and has a reputation for rolling his sleeves up and bringing about sustainable change.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank Ursula Lidbetter for the huge contribution she has made to The Co-op Group over many years and particularly as chair since November 2013. The vital reform of the Group’s governance owes much to her determination and dedication. Without her hard work we would not be ready to embark on the next phase of our journey.”
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