Euan Sutherland resigns from 'ungovernable' Co-op Group

Mar 11, 2014

Chief executive Euan Sutherland has stepped down, blaming a lack of ‘professional and commercial governance.

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

EUAN SUTHERLAND has resigned as chief executive of the Co-operative Group, describing the mutual group as "ungovernable".

Richard Pennycook, the Co-op's chief financial officer, will step into the role on an interim basis.

In a statement posted on the Co-op Group's Facebook page, Sutherland said: "Until the Group adopts professional and commercial governance it will be impossible to implement what my team and I believe are the necessary changes and reforms to renew the Group and give it a relevant and sustainable future."

The Times reports that the Co-op's board was reluctant to accept the resignation.

"In a failed effort to salvage the situation and persuade Mr Sutherland to stay, the board agreed to call a vote of the Co-op's entire membership on plans for a radical overhaul," the paper reports.

According to commentators quoted by the BBC, Sutherland's departure stems from a clash of cultures between the mutual traditions of the Co-op, which is owned by its customers, and the more cut-throat approach of its modern business rivals.

"Mr Sutherland's resignation offer may have come about due to disagreements at board level on the direction the Co-operative Group should be taking," John Thanassoulis, professor of financial economics at Warwick Business School, told the BBC.

"This is a comment on how viable the Co-operative Group's business model is – can it survive or does it not work?"

Sutherland was criticised after details of a proposed remuneration package of £3.66m were leaked over the weekend.

"Liberal Democrat and Labour politicians denounced the pay as not being in line with the Co-ops's ethical principles," the Times reported.

The resignation comes after a year of financial problems in Co-op's banking division and the arrest of the division's former chairman Paul Flowers for alleged drug offences.

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