They say the big moments in life can be filled with both sorrow and joy and that’s just how it felt yesterday afternoon.
We announced that our Co-op Group CEO Richard Pennycook is to stand down and our current Co-op Food CEO Steve Murrells is to be his successor I’ve worked closely with both Richard and Steve over the last couple of years and have tremendous respect for them, both as business leaders and as Co-operators.
As many of the news reports reminded their readers, Richard Pennycook is the man ‘who saved the Co-op’. Richard’s far too modest to ever claim that himself, and he’s the first to point out that it’s always a team effort. That’s true. But there’s no doubt that Richard deserves the thanks of Co-op members for all he’s done in the last three and half years.
In that time Richard led the negotiations with the banking regulators that avoided the British tax payer having to bail out the Co-op; he guided through the necessary reforms to our constitution and governance including one member, one vote; he developed the strategy for our three year Rebuild; he brought us back into profit; and he’s put Co-op Membership back at the heart of all we’re doing launching the biggest changes to our Co-op Membership for decades.
As we’ve been saying since last year’s AGM, our Co-op is back! And Richard deserves a great deal of the credit.
As President of our National Members’ Council, I’ve found Richard to be a highly collaborative CEO who understood the essential role elected members must play in guaranteeing we stay true to our Co-op values. A strong working relationship between the Council and Richard’s team has been vitally important as we’ve worked through some huge changes for the business.
Richard’s decision to step down at the end of this month is one that allows the smoothest possible handover and gives us all the assurance that there’ll be continuity in the strategy we’ve been following.
With Richard handing over now, Steve has the time and opportunity to develop the next phase of our Co-op recovery and I know the Council will play its role too. Although we have an important final year of Rebuild, with our focus on recruiting a million new members, we’re already thinking about the Renew phase.
Renew will set our course for many years and Steve, as Richard’s successor, needs to have a key role in developing the thinking for it. How should our existing businesses evolve? What new Co-op solutions could we bring to the market? Renew is a very exciting and ambitious phase that we’re moving too and I’ve no doubt we have the right person to lead the Group Executive as we develop our ideas.
Steve is an exceptional retailer with a proven commitment to the Co-op. Our Council already know Steve well and I’m in no doubt he’ll build on the successful relationship Richard established. Steve’s been central to our rescue and recovery and his True North strategy for Food created the template for much of the wider Rebuild programme. Membership recruitment is being led by our Food store colleagues and they’ve already made a fantastic start to reaching this year’s goal.
So it’s with sorrow that we say thank you and farewell to Richard but I’m in no doubt that we can be joyful in welcoming Steve to his new role.
President National Members’ Council