Co-operative chief executive Peter Marks yesterday announced he is to retire from the group, which last month agreed the £750 million acquisition of 632 bank branches from Lloyds.
Marks, who also oversaw the takeover of supermarket chain Somerfield, has spent 45 years in the co-operative movement and will have been at the helm of the Co-operative Group for six years when he stands down in May.
His other high-profile deals have included the merger with building society Britannia and a joint venture with Thomas Cook to create an enlarged travel shop business. As the UK’s largest mutual business, with 4,800 retail outlets, the group employs more than 106,000 people and generates an annual turnover of more than £13 billion.
Marks joined the Yorkshire Co-op as a management trainee in its food division in 1967 and became chief executive in 2007 following the group’s merger with United Co-operatives. He said the Co-op had been transformed over the past five years while “staying true to our roots as a mutual”.
He added: “Given all we have achieved, it now feels like the right time for me to stand down.”
Co-op chairman Len Wardle said the group will consider external as well as internal candidates to replace Marks, who will retire at the group’s annual meeting next year.
He said: “Peter has done a truly outstanding job for the Co-operative Group. He was the architect of the current strategy to ensure that we developed real scale in our key businesses.”
Last month’s deal with Lloyds will see 2,000 Scottish bank staff transfer to the Co-op, which will also take on 4.8 million customers. The acquisition, which is due to be completed by November 2013, will triple its number of branches to 1,000 – equivalent to 10 per cent of the UK total.
Part-nationalised Lloyds was forced to offload the Project Verde business to meet European Union rules on state aid following its taxpayer bailout. The Co-op is paying £350m initially, plus a further £400m based on performance targets until 2027.
The banking business will be run by Project Verde chief Paul Pester, who began his career as a management consultant with companies, including McKinsey, before joining the financial services sector in 1999 as group chief executive of Virgin Money.
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