Co-operative Group hires City headhunters to find board members

Michael Bow
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Ursula Lidbetter is a Co-op insider – but she will be replaced by an outside appointment
The Co-operative has kicked off its search for a new chair by appointing City headhunters Odgers Berndtson to grill potential applicants for the high profile role.

The mutual, currently chaired by Co-op insider Ursula Lidbetter, is hunting for the first independent chairman in its 150-year history in the wake of radical governance reforms voted through by the group last week.

The Co-op will overhaul its 20-strong board, shrinking it to 11 members. Lidbetter had already agreed to stand down following the vote.

Co-op has also appointed Odgers, which recently helped recruit the new Lloyd’s of London chief executive Inga Beale, to find several other non-executive directors to fill out the board.

These include roles of senior independent director, chair of audit and chair of remuneration.

Co-op’s governance was heavily criticised after revelations about the private life of Paul Flowers, who was chair of the remuneration and appointments committee. Applications for the role, advertised on the Odgers website, close on Sunday 5 October.

“The group is looking for experienced boardroom professionals to accompany it on the journey to restore the Co-op,” the advert says.

Alongside Egon Zehnder, Spencer Stuart, Russell Reynolds and MWM Consulting, Odgers Berndtson is the go-to place for corporate nomination committees in the hunt for top talent in the City.

The outfit, which has UK head offices on Cannon Street, runs a so-called Board & CEO practice chaired by former Tory cabinet minister Virginia Bottomley and has conducted searches for a host of big name City institutions.

Last year it helped recruit the new chairman of Lloyd’s of London, Inga Beale, and was also hired to find a replacement for Mark Carney as the next governor of the Bank of Canada as well as being tasked with finding the Bank of England’s first chief operating officer. The group was founded by Ian Odgers as Odgers International before being taken over by current chairman Richard Boggis-Rolfe and before merging with US rival Ray & Berndtson in 2000.

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