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Co-op members call for chairman to go after bank takeover

Co-op faces a hostile takeover by vulture funds under a restructuring plan

Hundreds of delegates packed a Co-op Group biannual meeting in Manchester on Saturday furious at the collapse of the Co-operative Bank and its takeover by US-based hedge funds.

Co-op Group chairman Les Wardle faced calls from members at its half-yearly meeting to stand down in the wake of the banking debacle.

The group's board oversees all of its businesses, including retail, pharmaceutical and banking.

The bank faces a hostile takeover by vulture funds under a restructuring plan announced last week after being left with a £1.5 billion financial "black hole."

The Co-op will be left with only a 30 per cent stake in the business, prompting leading co-operators to demand a change of name.

Trade group Co-operatives UK secretary-general Ed Mayo said despite investors' plans to trade on the name and ethical character of the business the bank could no longer be considered a co-op.

"The co-operative identity of the bank is not a matter of personal judgement or simple commercial opportunity," he said.

And Business Secretary Vince Cable told the Mail on Sunday that he'd launched a consultation on whether the bank could continue to use the protected "co-operative" term.

And the group came under fire from members on Saturday.

Leeds and Wakefield delegate Michael McGowan said the "devastating" problems at the Co-op Bank were not a failure of the co-operative model of business but "a failure of governance."

He criticised the appointment of executives from the private sector rather experienced people within the co-operative movement, demanding the immediate resignation of Mr Wardle, who has said he will leave next year.

Thousands of its 4.7 million customers are understood to have signed up to a Save Our Bank campaign which aims to ensure that its ethical investment policy remains.

They are also demanding that it returns to mutual status, meaning that it is owned and controlled by its members and customers.

The Co-op board meets tomorrow to consider delegates' views.


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