Co-op appoints Debbie White as chair designate

Manchester-based Co-op Group said it has appointed Debbie White as chair designate.

“Debbie brings a wealth of business and commercial experience and will succeed Allan Leighton in February 2024, when his nine-year term of office as chair ends,” said Co-op Group.

“Debbie has held a series of significant and complex executive roles, including group chief executive of Interserve and Global CEO for healthcare and government at Sodexo.

“More recently she has held a number of non-executive roles, including senior independent director at Spire Healthcare Group plc, Howden’s Joinery Group plc and PAVmed Inc.”

Co-op Group is owned by its members, employs 57,000 people and has an annual turnover of over £11.5 billion.

The group said the new chair’s “fee” will be £250,000.

Leighton said: “Debbie is the ideal person to take our Co-op forwards over the coming years.

“She has extensive business experience across a range of sectors and I’m personally delighted that she will join us at this exciting time, as our Co-op focuses on recruiting a million new members and providing top class products and services for our members and customers. 

“Over the past nine years our Co-op has regained its financial strength but it has never lost sight of its wider social commitments and responsibilities by delivering value to our member-owners. 

“Under Debbie’s leadership I have every confidence that our Co-op will continue to grow and to deliver against these commitments.”

Co-op Group CEO Shirine Khoury-Haq said: “It is testament to the strength and future potential of our Co-op that we can attract someone of Debbie’s calibre and I’m looking forward to working closely with her as we embark on another exciting chapter in our Co-op’s 180-year history.

“She has a proven track record, a commitment to our Co-op values and principles, and is a role model for championing diversity and inclusion. She is a perfect fit for our Co-op.

“In welcoming Debbie I also want to thank Allan for the enormous support he’s provided to me personally and for the incredible turnaround he’s overseen for our Co-op and our members over the past 9 years.”

White, 61, said: “I am delighted and privileged to be taking up this role. 

“The Co-op is an iconic business with an important role to play in supporting the needs of our members and wider society.

“I’m really looking forward to working with Shirine, our board, our National Members Council and our 57,000 colleagues, to grow our Co-op further and to build upon the existing momentum already in place. 

“The Co-op is the original business with purpose, with ambitious plans to grow further in the coming years and I’m excited by the prospect of being a part of a business which exists to meet the needs of its members.”

White is expected to join the Co-op Group board as an independent non-executive director in August 2023 before taking on the role of chair in February 2024.