Co-op delays results as board starts to take shape

The embattled Co-operative Group said yesterday that it was delaying the publication of its annual results as it unveiled a shake up of senior management.

Euan Sutherland
Euan Sutherland

Figures widely expected to reveal losses of £2 billion had been due to be published next Wednesday, but this has been put back by three weeks to 17 April.

The move is likely to fuel speculation that the group’s ­balance sheet has been left in even worse shape than previously thought.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

But a source blamed the delay on the recent turmoil over the departure of chief executive Euan Sutherland. Instead of an intense focus on the numbers in the run-up to the release, “people’s focus has been elsewhere”.

The results cover a 12-month period in which the Co-op has faced the worst crisis in its ­history, after a £1.5bn hole was discovered in the finances of its banking arm, and the group lost overall control of the business as it was rescued by bondholders.

Scots-born Sutherland, below, walked out last week as head of the “ungovernable” group as knives were drawn in the boardroom over the reforms he insisted were essential to bring it back to shape. He had only been at the helm since May. He claimed his attempts to drive through reform had been ­deliberately undermined by ­colleagues at the top of the group leaking details of his £3.66 million pay deal.

Sutherland lashed out at “disaffected people determined to make life difficult and embarrassing for the Co-operative”.

The group said its annual meeting would still be held, as planned, on 17 May, when members will hear details of its strategy review. A special general meeting, at a later date, will put detailed reforms of the way the group is governed to a membership vote. It comes after the Co-op’s 21-member board voted to abolish itself and be replaced by a slimmed-down “plc” style board responsible for making commercial decisions.

Meanwhile, the group also unveiled a series of changes to its executive management team.

Finance director Richard Pennycook, currently standing in as chief executive, will move into an expanded role as chief operating officer once a permanent new boss is found. The role will oversee finance and procurement as well as IT, risk and “transformation delivery” as the group seeks to reshape itself.

Other changes include former Co-op bank deputy chief executive Rod Bulmer becoming chief executive of consumer services, with responsibility for insurance, funerals and legal services.

Mark Craig, director of Co-operative relations, is leaving the group after more than 30 years, while three others leave the management executive but carry on their functions.