Suffolk: Shock as Co-op chief executive leaves company

A bombshell hit The East of England Co-op today with news that charismatic chief executive Richard Samson is leaving the company.

THE chief executive of the East of England Co-operative Society has left the role with immediate effect, it was revealed today.

Richard Samsom will be on leave pending his final departure from the business, said society president John Pendle in a statement which gave no reason for the development.

The Ipswich-based business ranks as the largest independent retailer in the region, with more than 200 outlets in more than 70 towns and villages.

Mr Pendle said today: “Richard Samson will be leaving his role as chief Executive of the East of England Co-operative Society and will be on a period of leave prior to his departure.

“While we look for a successor, members of the society’sexecutive team – Mike Faulkner, society secretary; Roger Grosvenor, group general manager – trading; and Maria McGettigan, group general manager – HR – will take on the role of joint acting chief executive and the day-to-day operation of the Society will continue as normal.

“Richard Samson took over as chief executive in 2006 and has seen the society through a period of great change that has included significant improvements to many of the Society’s supermarkets and food stores, several major acquisitions and the establishment of new ventures.

Most Read

“We are committed to providing a modern, successful co-operative business for our members and customers and look to build on the foundations that have firmly established the East of England Co-operative as one of the leading co-operative societies in the UK.

“The Board will consider the Society’s new leadership requirements to drive the business forward positively and meet the challenges ahead.”

Mr Samson became chief executive of the former Ipswich & Norwich Co-op in October 2004, taking over from Bill Brown.

He was named chief executive designate when the society merged with the Colchester & East Essex Co-op the following year to create the East of England Co-op, and was confirmed as chief executive in 2006.

It its most recent trading statement, issued at the end of November last year and covering the 28 weeks to August 7, the society reported a 4.1% increase in underlying trading profit to �7.5million.

Turnover on continuing operations edged ahead by 0.9% to �193.1m, despite what the society described as a “challenging” trading environment.

Profit before dividend payouts and taxation totalled �7.6m, compared with a loss for the same period the previous year when the figures included one-off charges relating to the discontinuation of some businesses and a write-down in the value of investment properties.

During Mr Samson’s tenure, the society developed a major focus on its local foodstores business, investing heavily (on a self-funded basis) in refurbishments and new openings.

The society also operates pharmacy, opticians, mobility, funeral and travel services and an online electricals retail business.

However, it has withdrawn from a number of traditional areas of business including its door-to-door milk delivery rounds, which is sold to Dairy Crest in 2008, and its department and home stores business, sold to Vergo Retail in 2009.

The society retained the freehold on the stores, which subsequently closed after Vergo collapsed into administration.

Last year, the society also completed its withdrawal from the motor trade, with the sale of three car dealerships in Norfolk. Other dealerships in Suffolk and Essex were sold off some years earlier.

Another major change overseen by Mr Samson was the society’s acquisition in 2008 of Wherstead Park, the former headquarters of Eastern Electricity.

The society transferred its head office organisation to the site the following year.