Britain's Co-op backs radical reform plans

LONDON Sat Aug 30, 2014 8:19am EDT

LONDON Aug 30 (Reuters) - Members of the Co-operative Group endorsed a radical shake-up of its board structure on Saturday, designed to avoid a repeat of the mistakes that brought Britain's biggest mutual to its knees, the group said.

A string of poor decisions at the supermarkets-to-funerals group, such as the ill-fated 2009 takeover of Britannia building society, culminated in it losing control of its bank and a 2.5 billion pound ($4.15 billion) loss last year.

Earlier this year, Paul Myners, a former government minister, set out a raft of reforms he said were necessary to ensure the group's survival. The biggest change was ditching the Co-op's large board drawn from regional co-operatives in favour of one containing professional executives.

Co-op Group Chairwoman Ursula Lidbetter said earlier this month that the pillars of Myner's proposals were retained in the changes put to the vote, but the new board would still include three directors nominated by members.

"The Co-operative Group members have today voted in favour of a resolution on the adoption of a new Rulebook to radically reform the group's governance structure," a spokesman said.

The changes put to the members also included the establishment of a council of 100 members to uphold the group's co-operative principle, and introducing a "one member one vote" structure.

($1 = 0.6023 British Pounds) (Reporting by Paul Sandle and Michael Holden. Editing by Jane Merriman)