Leighton confirmed as Co-op boss

File photo dated 30/11/04 of former Asda chief executive Allan Leighton as he is to oversee the rebu

File photo dated 30/11/04 of former Asda chief executive Allan Leighton as he is to oversee the rebuilding of the Co-operative Group after his appointment as chairman was confirmed. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thursday February 19, 2015. Mr Leighton, whose father ran a Co-op store, becomes the society's first independent non-executive chair under its reformed governance structure. See PA story CITY Coop. Photo credit should read: John Stillwell/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Former Asda boss Allan Leighton is to oversee the rebuilding of the Co-operative Group after his appointment as chairman was confirmed today.

Mr Leighton, whose father ran a Co-op store, becomes the society’s first independent non-executive chair under its reformed governance structure.

He served as boss of grocery chain Asda from 1996 to 2000 and was non-executive chairman of Royal Mail from 2002 to 2009 and president of Loblaw, the largest food retailer in Canada, from 2008 to 2011.

Mr Leighton, who is to receive a £3.4 million pay-off from jewellery maker and retailer Pandora after he steps down as its chief executive on March 1, has requested that his fee of £250,000 for the Co-op role is handed to the Co-operative Foundation, a charitable trust supporting young people.

He said he was “delighted and privileged” to be taking up the position as he pledged to help restore the mutual to its “rightful place at the heart of communities up and down the UK”.

Mr Leighton added: “I grew up with this business, because my father ran the local Co-op, so I have a very real understanding of the importance of The Co-operative to local communities and a strong sense of what the society stands for.”

His appointment follows the arrival of Sir Christopher Kelly as senior non-independent director of the food-to-funerals group, the first external appointment under radical governance reforms.

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The group suffered the worst crisis in its 150-year history in 2013 as it notched up a staggering £2.5 billion annual loss after being dragged down by the near-collasps of its banking arm.

The Co-op was previously run by elected directors - including a plasterer and retired deputy head teacher - but will now largely consist of professional business people.

Reforms were approved by the group’s membership following a coruscating report by former City minister Lord Myners who said it was apparent that none of the board could handle the complex issues faced by the debt-laden and crisis-hit business.

Mr Leighton will now lead the work to complete the establishment of the new board, composed of a majority of independent directors.

Their appointment is expected ahead of the group’s AGM in May, with further elected directors set to join the board following the meeting.