Coop fires managing director following poor 2012 result

Departing managing director Jesper Lien rose through the ranks to head the Danish retail giant for 19 years after starting as an IT consultant

Denmark’s largest retailer Coop has fired its managing director Jesper Lien over differences about how to run the company.

Coop is now looking for a new managing director to replace Lien, who has run the company since 2009.

“I have been very happy with Jesper Lien's work and the results he created for Coop,” the company's board chairman, Lasse Bolander, told Jyllands-Posten newspaper. “The reason we are parting is because we have a different idea about how the company should be run.”

While there are few other details about Lien’s departure, it does follow a poor year for Coop in which its pre-tax profits dropped from 520 million kroner in 2011 to 228 million kroner in 2012.

Lien’s departure concludes almost two decades at Coop. He first started as an IT consultant after qualifying as a civil engineer from the Technical University of Denmark 19 years ago.

He rose quickly within the company and in 2009 was promoted from the head of the Superbrugsen supermarket chain to parent company Coop’s top role.

“I have spent 19 informative and exciting years at Coop and of course it’s sad to say goodbye after all these years,” Lien told Jyllands-Posten. “But we cannot agree on Coop’s strategy and focus, which is why I’ve decided to stop our co-operation.”

The retail giant is currently searching for a new managing director, but until one is found the company’s CFO, Per Toelstang, will fill in as acting managing director.

“Coop is a very large group with five chains and 1,200 shops, 400 of which are independent co-ops, with 1.3 million owners or members,” Bolander said. “That’s why we are looking for someone with strong communication and co-operation skills. Someone with a high level of leadership experience and a strong customer focus.”