You will have heard by now that Richard Pennycook has decided to stand down as chief executive of the Co-op Group. This comes after nearly four years during which he successfully rescued us from imminent collapse and rebuilt us to a point where we are once again looking to the future with confidence.
We all owe Richard an enormous amount. Without his experience, intellect, integrity and steadying sense of calm at the centre of the Group things could have turned out very differently. His vision for how we could express our co-operative values and re-engage with our communities whilst remaining a professional and successful set of businesses has helped us recruit many talented leaders into the Co-op.
It is typical of Richard that he recognised that unless he was to stay on for another four or five years, it would be best that he moved aside early to allow a new chief executive to lead our planning processes through this year for the Renew phase of our turn around.
And we are very fortunate to have had a clear successor in place in Steve Murrells, who in October was awarded the 2016 Grocer Cup as the person judged to have been “the individual who has contributed most to the industry over he past year and who has shown exceptional leadership in inspiring his company to achieve exceptional results”.
Steve is the person who has transformed Co-op’s food business in the last three years. By focusing more clearly on our natural strengths the convenience sector and re-building an own brand range that we could all be proud of, Steve has been instrumental in restoring morale, momentum and sustained market-leading growth to our stores.
I am delighted to be working with someone whom I know will bring vision, enthusiasm and energy to the task of leading the Co-op, and who totally buys into our values and ethos. More exciting times ahead!