Nadhim Zahawi appointed chairman of Barclay family-owned Very Group

Former chancellor Nadhim Zahawi has been appointed chairman of online retailer Very Group, which owns Very and Littlewoods.

The Conservative MP, who last week said he would stand down at the next election, will replace interim chairman Aidan Barclay at the company which is part of the Barclay family’s business empire.

The Barclays have owned Very Group since 2002, but the business recently swung to a half-year loss and was forced to secure £125 million in new debt funding from Carlyle Global Credit and IMI.

The Very Group said in a statement that Mr Zahawi would work with the directors and management team to explore expanding the business in new areas.

Nadhim Zahawi
Mr Zahawi served in senior roles under the last four prime ministers (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Mr Zahawi has previously been linked with helping the Barclay family on their attempts to regain control of the Telegraph newspaper, which was placed into receivership by its lender Lloyds in June 2023.

The Financial Times reported last year that he had emerged as a middle man between the family and a group of Middle Eastern funds which had been singled out as backers of the media group.

A few months later, United Arab Emirates-based consortium Redbird IMI effectively took control of the newspaper when it repaid the Barclay family’s debts, including a £600 million loan.

But Redbird IMI walked away from a takeover after it said new government legislation meant the acquisition was “no longer feasible”, sparking a fresh auction of the newspaper group.

Mr Zahawi said of his new role with 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.”

Mr Zahawi, who co-founded the polling company YouGov in 2000, has held ministerial positions under the last four prime ministers – Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Liz Truss, and Rishi Sunak.

He had a short-lived stint as chancellor in the final days of Mr Johnson’s government. Other positions included Covid-19 vaccines minister, Conservative Party chairman and education secretary.

Last week, he announced he would not run in the next election. Mr Zahawi was sacked as Conservative Party chairman in January 2023 after an inquiry found he had failed to disclose that HMRC was investigating his tax affairs.

Over the weekend, he told the BBC he paid nearly £5 million to authorities to settle his tax affairs, and apologised for not being “more explicit” in his ministerial declaration on the settlement.

He called it a “careless mistake”.

Mr Zahawi was born in Baghdad, from where he and his family fled Saddam Hussein’s regime to the UK when he was 11.

Aidan Barclay added: “I am delighted to welcome Nadhim to the Board of the Very Group.

“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.”

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