Name: Sir Graham Melmoth
Was: CEO of The Co-operative Group
Now: Honorary president of the Greater Manchester Centre for Voluntary Organisation
Number of years in grocery: 26

Career background: Sir Graham worked at pharmaceutical company Fisons before joining The Co-operative Group in 1976. He was CEO from 1996 until September 2002, when he retired.

What is he doing now? Before Sir Graham handed the reins over to Martin Beaumont at The Co-op, he said he planned to “get my life back” when he retired. Since leaving the society, he has held a number of charitable positions, including chair of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations from 2004 to 2011 and trustee of the Charities Aid Foundation. In August last year, he was named honorary president of the Greater Manchester Centre for Voluntary Organisation.

Biggest achievements in grocery: Sir Graham is credited with turning around the fortunes of The Co-op Group. He merged the society’s wholesale and retail businesses and brought its financial services businesses, The Co-operative Bank and the Co-operative Insurance Society together. But he is probably best known for seeing off a £1.2bn hostile takeover bid in 1997. When he left the society, he said: “We have seen off asset strippers, delivered a major merger, and brought together our financial service business. The group is now based on firm foundations, but there is more mileage yet in a renewed co-operative proposition.”

Honours: In 2002, Sir Graham was knighted for services to the retail industry. On receiving the honour, he said. “On a personal level I’m obviously honoured and delighted. However, I’d like to think that this is a recognition of the progress made in recent years by the co-operative movement in re-establishing itself as a significant force in the UK social and business economy.”

Where are you now? Are you searching for a former colleague who you’d love to get in contact with again, or would you like to appear in this column? Contact Beth Phillips on or 01293 610227