Nadhim Zahawi appointed Very Group non-executive chair and board member

Nadhim Zahawi MP

Former Chancellor, Nadhim Zahawi, has been appointed non-executive chair, and a board member, of Liverpool-based online retailer, Very Group.

The Iraqi-born MP for Stratford-on-Avon will replace Aidan Barclay, part of the Barclay family which owns the former Littlewoods mail order business. Aidan Barclay assumed the role on an interim basis in February this year after Dirk Van den Berghe stepped down at the end of his contract term.

Last week Mr Zahawi announced that he will stand down as MP at the upcoming General Election.

Very Group has nearly 4.5 million customers, but has a hefty debt pile, and his appointment could see a bid for fresh equity investment.

The group said Mr Zahawi will work closely with the current directors and management team to achieve continued sales and profit growth, as well as exploring expansion of the business in new areas.

In addition, he will work with the shareholders on the strategic options for the business and the optimal capital structure to achieve its growth ambitions. This may involve fresh equity investment in the short to medium term.

In October last year the group revealed its annual pre-tax profits had plummeted to £4.6m, in stark contrast to the £63.9 figure the prior year.

Very, which operates the Very and Littlewoods online retail businesses, said this was due to figures being impacted by the heightened cost of funding to the company. Finance costs increased 43.5% in fiscal year 2023.

Group revenue was broadly flat at £2.15bn.

Very said it had recently secured £126m of new debt funding from Carlyle Global Credit and IMI.

Mr Zahawi was sacked by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for failing to disclose he was being investigated by HMRC and the National Crime Agency over a multimillion-pound tax dispute related to the sale of shares in his polling firm YouGov while he was Chancellor.

He said he had made a “careless and not deliberate” error after initially saying he had no knowledge of the investigation and had “paid all taxes”.

His links to Very Group are due to his role as an intermediary between the Barclay family and Abu Dhabi-based investor, IMI Investments, which was involved in a bid for the Barclay family-owned Daily Telegraph.

The Barclays used to own London’s Ritz hotel.

In February this year the Barclays sold UK parcel delivery group, Yodel, based in Liverpool, to a newly formed company called YDLGP, backed by Jacob Corlett, founder of international parcel delivery group Shift, and merchant bank Solano Partners, in a rescue deal that saved thousands of jobs.

Previously, the Barclays have explored the sale of their online shopping business, which they value at more than £3bn.

Aidan Barclay welcomed Mr Zahawi, saying: “With a proven track record in digital growth and innovation, and highly respected in the UK and global markets, he is ideally suited to lead our board as the company enters its next stage of strategic development and growth.”

Nadhim Zahawi said: “I am honoured to be asked to join the board and become chair of The Very Group.

“As one of the UK’s largest digital retailers and flexible payments providers, the company has an important role to play in helping families get more out of life.

“With a heritage of over 100 years, Very has an unrivalled knowledge and understanding of its customer, demonstrating resilience even in the face of challenging conditions.”

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