Richard Pennycook has today (September 4) been named permanent chief executive of the Co-operative group after taking on the role on an interim basis in March. Retail Week profiled him when he joined as finance director in 2013.
The Co-operative Group pulled off a big coup by signing outgoing Morrisons finance boss Richard Pennycook as group finance director.
Pennycook is a man who is addicted to corporate drama. His CV is peppered with turnarounds and management buyouts, and his new role at The Co-operative Group, which has barely been out of the news over the past month thanks to its embattled banking arm, certainly fits the bill.
However, after nine years turning around an struggling Morrisons business, Pennycook seems up to the job.
Pennycook joined the grocer a year after it completed its £3bn takeover of Safeway in 2004, which had not run smoothly.
“It was such a big organisation. Morrisons had 40,000 staff and Safeway had 80,000, and it was in deep trouble,” he said in an interview with Retail Week last year.
In the City, brokers were baying for blood and Pennycook’s role in stabilising the business thrust him into the spotlight.
“It was an important part of the role when I arrived at Morrisons. There was no hiding, we were in the newspapers every other day,” he recalls.
Pennycook did the seemingly impossible and helped restore the City’s faith in the grocer. New Co-operative Group boss Euan Sutherland will be hoping he can perform the same miracle in winning around its stakeholders.
Clearly Pennycook’s grocery experience will be a great help to the group, but it is his corporate nous which The Co-operative Group will be banking on. From floats to acquisitions to MBOs, Pennycook has not just seen, but led them all.
Outside the boardroom, Pennycook is a bit of a thrill-seeker – he is an adept pilot in his spare time.
“When I was young I wanted to be a fighter pilot. I was all about Top Gun and all that stuff. Unfortunately, a trip to the opticians when I was 12 knocked that on the head, so overnight I thought I’d pursue the second most exciting career path – chartered accountancy,” Pennycook quiped.
Accustomed to bumpy rides, Pennycook may be just the man to take the controls of The Co-operative Group and get it flying high again.
Co-operative Group names Richard Pennycook chief executive on permanent basis
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Profile: Richard Pennycook, permanent chief executive of the Co-operative Group