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Co-op appoints first female boss in 159-year history

Shirine Khoury-Haq replaces Steve Murrells at the helm of the retail and funeral business.

The Co-op has appointed the group’s first female chief executive since it was founded in 1863, the company announced. Shirine Khoury-Haq will replace current boss Steve Murrells, who will step down after ten years with the group at the company’s annual meeting in May.

Ms Khoury-Haq is currently boss of Co-op’s Life Services division, which sells insurance policies, and the group’s finance chief.

The new boss is expected to see her salary increase in line with Mr Murrells’, who took home £2.2 million in 2020. Ms Khoury-Haq was paid £1.1 million in salary and bonuses in 2020.

She said: “I am proud to be part of a wonderful organisation that contributes so much to our communities and our country. We have lots to do and I am looking forward to working with my 60,000 colleagues, (chairman) Allan (Leighton) and our board to continue to make the Co-op a special place to work while providing great products and services to our customers and members.”

Outgoing boss Mr Murrells said he was leaving now because if he was to stay he would need to commit to at least five more years with the business.

He said: “It is important to put a clear CEO succession plan in place. This is especially the case as we begin the process to appoint a new chairman. In such circumstances I would either have needed to commit for another five years or step down now to allow a new CEO to become established and allow a smooth transition to occur, ahead of a new chairman arriving. I have therefore chosen to take that step now.”

Chairman Mr Leighton, who also sits on the board of BrewDog, will have been at Co-op for nine years by 2024 and is expected to stand down by then.

Corporate governance rules say non-executives should remain on boards for no longer than nine years.

“Shirine has excellent leadership skills and a deep level of operational experience, gained globally across a number of sectors.

“She understands our Co-op and I and the rest of the board look forward to working closely with her going forward”- summed up Mr Leighton.

The new boss prior to joining Co-op was the chief operating officer of the Lloyds of London insurance market and currently sits as a non-executive at housebuilder Persimmon.

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