Steve Murrells

Co-op Group CEO Steve Murrells is set to step down following the society’s AGM in May.

He will be replaced on an interim basis by Shirine Khoury-Haq, who is currently group CFO and CEO of Co-op Life Services.

Murrells joined the Co-op in 2012, heading up its food business. He was named group CEO in March 2017 when he succeeded Richard Pennycook. Along with Pennycook, he was widely recognised for playing a critical role in the turnaround of the business, which had been brought to the brink by the 2013 Co-op Bank scandal.

He joined Co-op from Danish meat company Tulip, where he spent three years as CEO. He also previously held senior roles at One Stop, Tesco and Sainsbury’s. 

The move comes as the Co-op is beginning the process to find a new chairman to replace Allan Leighton, who has held the role since 2015. Murrells said he had taken the decision to step down now in order to allow a smooth transition to take place with a new CEO ahead of a new chairman joining.

“I have had 10 wonderful years at the Co-op and am very proud of all that we have achieved and how we’ve shown that a purpose-led organisation, focused on a strong vision of fairness and values, can make such a difference,” said Murrells. “Thanks to our amazing colleagues, we have been there for millions of members and customers when they have needed us the most.”

Leighton said: “Steve has done a tremendous job at the Co-op in his 10 years of tenure and has been at the forefront of our transition. He is a top-class leader and person and his legacy in the Co-op is firmly embedded.

“Shirine has excellent leadership skills and a deep level of operational experience, gained globally across a number of sectors. She understands our Co-op and I and the rest of the board look forward to working closely with her.”

shirine khoury haq coop

When she takes over in May, Khoury-Haq will become the Co-op’s first female group CEO. She joined the business in August 2019, having previously been COO at Lloyd’s of London for five years.

“I am proud to be part of a wonderful organisation that contributes so much to our communities and our country,” she said. “We have lots to do and I am looking forward to working with my 60,000 colleagues, Allan and our board to continue to make the Co-op a special place to work while providing great products and services to our customers and members.”

The leadership changes will come in the same month Food CEO Jo Whitfield begins a four-month career break, which she is taking to support her family during a period when her two teenage sons will be preparing for and taking key academic exams.

It had previously been announced that Murrells would oversee the day-to-day running of the food business during this time. The news also comes just two months after Ken Towle, CEO of the Co-op owned retail group Nisa, left the business to join Asda. He was replaced as Nisa CEO by Co-op chief commercial officer Michael Fletcher.