Co-op Nisa

The Co-op has engaged headhunter firm Sam Allen Associates to conduct an executive search for the role

In the week that the Competition & Markets Authority has waved through the Co-op’s £137.5m takeover of buying group Nisa, The Grocer can reveal that Co-op is close to appointing a new CEO for Nisa.

The Co-op has engaged headhunter firm Sam Allen Associates to conduct an executive search for the role, with the list of potential candidates understood to include internal Co-op employees, former Nisa directors and the former boss of one major UK grocery chain.

One source told The Grocer that an internal Co-op candidate is currently the favourite to land the role.

The Co-op has a long-standing relationship with the headhunter. It has previously placed both Group CEO Steve Murrells and Food CEO Jo Whitfield with Nisa.

In the meantime The Grocer also understands that current Nisa executives have agreed to stay on for differing lengths of time in order to help smooth the transition.

Interim CEO Arnu Misra, who replaced Nick Read in October, was originally due to step down on 31 March which was around the time the Co-op had originally hoped to take control of Nisa before the process was held up due to the CMA investigation. It is now understood that Misra will remain with Nisa until a replacement is found.

A source familiar with the situation said: ”Arnu’s done a great job - he was always clear the role was on an interim basis to see the transaction through.”

Nisa CFO Robin Brown also looks set to stay on for an initial transition period at least. Chairman Peter Hartley’s position is unclear.

Having received the all-clear from the competition watchdog on Monday, the Co-op is set to finally complete the deal once it gets rubber-stamped by the courts on 4 May.

The CMA said that following close examination of all the evidence, it found “the proposed merger does not give rise to competition concerns”.

Read more: As takeover gets go-ahead, Co-op will need swift success to satisfy Nisa members

The CMA added that while the Co-op, as a groceries retailer, and Nisa, as a groceries wholesaler, did not compete head-to-head, as Nisa supplies more than 4,000 grocery stores, it had carefully considered the potential impact of the merger on competition between shops.

It examined whether the merged company could raise prices or reduce service quality for retail or wholesale customers. It found that existing retail and wholesale competition made this unlikely.

The CMA felt there were enough local alternatives to both Co-op and Nisa-supplied stores to ensure that people could still shop around to get the best value.

It also said Nisa-supplied stores were able to choose between several different wholesalers and would be able to switch supplier if prices were to increase or the quality of service go down as a result of the merger.

In conclusion, it said that the merged company would be unlikely to be able to raise prices or offer a worse service to either stores or shoppers.