Jo Whitfield is leaving the Co-op after five years as its Food CEO.

The society also announced today that Michael Fletcher is stepping down from his role as CEO of its wholesale arm Nisa after less than a year in the role.

The Co-op said Whitfield had decided it was the “right time to move on and pursue her next challenge” after six years with the business. She is set to be replaced by chief commercial officer Matt Hood.

Former Tesco director Hood, who has been at the Co-op for nine years and CCO for almost five, will be responsible for both the commercial and operational areas of the business. 

Whitfield’s departure is not entirely unexpected. She had been a frontrunner to replace former Co-op Group CEO Steve Murrells, who left in May. However, she missed out to then group CFO Shirine Khoury-Haq.

The appointment of Khoury-Haq coincided with Whitfield beginning a four-month career break, which she took to support her family during a period when her two teenage sons would be preparing for and taking key academic exams.

It has been reported that Whitfield had been upset at not landing the top job.

“Jo has decided that this is the right time to move on and pursue her next challenge,” said Co-op chairman Allan Leighton. “During her time with us, Jo has led a re-invention of our Food business. She always put colleagues first and championed colleague safety. She leaves the Co-op with our warmest wishes and deepest thanks for everything she has delivered for our colleagues, members and customers.” 

Khoury-Haq added: “I wish to express my thanks to Jo for all that she has achieved and wish her all the best in the next chapter of her career.”

Fletcher’s departure is more surprising, given he only took up the role at Nisa at the beginning of the year replacing Ken Towle who moved to Asda as retail director. The new Nisa CEO will be Peter Batt, a former MD of Co-op’s regional stores in the south.

Fletcher will leave in October with Khoury-Haq saying he plans to “pursue a new career path, supporting multiple businesses”. 

“Peter Batt will take over from Michael with immediate effect to allow a managed handover with Michael,” she explained. “Peter has extensive experience in retail and trading and brings with him both commercial and operational experience from his roles outside of Co-op. 

“I have the utmost confidence that Peter will hit the ground running to support our Nisa partners.”