Ben Reid, the chief executive of the Midcounties Co-operative, is seen as the likely flag-bearer for the traditionalists in a battle for control of the Co-operative Group.
The traditionalists have been opposed to many of the measures the departed chief executive Euan Sutherland has been trying to impose, such as restructuring, the selling off of parts of the group's portfolio and the streamlining of governance procedures.
Reid, who has an OBE for his services to the Co-operative movement, has been a vocal opponent of the Co-op group's recent joint venture agreement with Thomas Cook in the travel agency space, saying that the Co-op movement should not be teaming up with conventional plc companies.
And he has been a critic of Amazon over its tax payments to the UK HMRC. "I think it's quite strange that I [Midcounties] paid more in tax than Amazon," he said in connection with payments made after the 2012/2013 tax year.
Andre Spicer, professor of organisational behaviour at Cass Business School says of Reid and his supporters:
Traditionalists in the group want to preserve the values of democratic decision-making, and the slow and often unwieldy processes this entails. It is difficult to see how you can reconcile these two very different visions for the future of the Co-op.
Spicer says the conflict over Sutherland's pay package bought the clash of the two groups' values to a head.
Reid has been on the Co-Op board since 2000. The Midcounties Co-operative is the largest independent co-operative in the UK, offering travel, food, funeral care and pharmacies.