The Co-operative Group has announced that Richard Pennycook is to step down as group CEO and will be succeeded by Steve Murrells, currently CEO of its Food business.

Pennycook, who joined the Co-op at the height of its crisis in 2013 and has led its ‘Rescue’ and ‘Rebuild’ phases, will step down as CEO after a short transition to Murrells.

The group said it has made great progress on rebuilding the Co-op, with businesses performing strongly over the past two years and Rebuild plans starting to deliver value for its members.

As the Group enters the third and final year of its Rebuild, the attention of the leadership turns to planning for ‘Renewal’ - a long-term phase which will seek to put the Co-op at the heart of communities in the UK.

Pennycook, who joined the Co-op on an interim basis, will now return to a planned portfolio career.

Murrells joined the Group to run its Food business in 2012 and has led a “highly successful turnaround”. He joins the Group board on 1 March.

Pennycook has agreed to act as an advisor to the Group, primarily focusing on its relations with the Co-operative Bank.

Allan Leighton, chair of the Co-op, said: “Richard Pennycook saved our Co-op. In three short years he has rescued and rebuilt our business and restored pride to our 70,000 colleagues and 4.5 million members. We owe Richard a huge debt of gratitude and his place in Co-op history is secured.

“We are fortunate to have Steve as our new Group CEO. He is a natural co-operator, a great leader and has already done so much to return our Co-op to its former glory. Steve has transformed our food business and put it back at the heart of communities across the country.”

Murrells said: “I’m honoured to have this opportunity to lead our Co-op and to serve our millions of members. I take over at one of the most exciting times in our 150 year history.

“All the signs are that consumers are looking for a different type of business, one that looks after them and their communities and I truly believe that the Co-op is that business.”