Leighton to pick up £3.4m pay-off on Pandora departure

FORMER Asda boss Allan Leighton, who is widely tipped to take over as the new chairman of the Co-op, is to be paid £3.4m by jewellery store chain Pandora following his departure next month.

Pandora’s accounts show that Mr Leighton, currently chief executive, will receive the pay-off, worth three times his salary, as part of his compensation and benefits during a time when the group was in the process of turning itself around.

The company reported a 40 per cent increase in net profits in 2014 following the introduction of a broader range of products. It started life selling charm bracelets.

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The Co-op is hoping to appoint Mr Leighton as its first independent chairman. The two sides are in talks over the job and an announcement is expected shortly.

The move would mark Mr Leighton’s return to the supermarket sector after 15 years working in a number of different industries.

The son of a Co-op store manager, he is non-executive chairman at Saltaire-based set-top box maker Pace as well as clothing retailers Matalan and Peacocks.

If he joins, Mr Leighton will be welcomed as a safe pair of hands by new chief executive Richard Pennycook, the former Morrisons finance director, as he attempts to turn the business around.

Mr Pennycook, who lives outside York, was named boss last September after Euan Sutherland walked out claiming the beleaguered food-to-funerals group was ungovernable.

The group reported a record £2.5bn loss for 2013, as it was dragged down by the near-collapse of its banking arm. Members have approved a radical shake-up in the way the group is run.

Mr Pennycook, who describes himself as an adopted Yorkshireman, became Morrisons’ finance director in 2005 and played a key part, alongside chief executive Marc Bolland, in reviving the grocer after the troubled takeover of Safeway in 2004. Mr Pennycook left Morrisons in 2013 after he was passed over for the top role in favour of Dalton Philips​, who was ousted earlier this year.