Nadhim Zahawi named chair of Very Group after quitting as MP

<span>Nadhim Zahawi was sacked as Conservative party chair in January 2023.</span><span>Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA</span>
Nadhim Zahawi was sacked as Conservative party chair in January 2023.Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

The former UK chancellor Nadhim Zahawi is to become the chair of Very Group, the online retailer owned by the billionaire Barclay family, days after announcing that he would step down as a Conservative MP at the next general election.

Zahawi’s appointment at Very comes after he said on Thursday that he would not seek re-election as MP for Stratford-on-Avon, adding to a succession of prominent Conservatives who are stepping aside.

Zahawi will replace Aidan Barclay as the chair of Very, which operates the Very and Littlewoods retail brands.

Related: Nadhim Zahawi admits he paid nearly £5m to HMRC after ‘careless mistake’

He is expected to start in the role on 1 June. Under parliamentary rules, all former ministers must apply for approval by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (Acoba) before taking any job within two years of leaving their government role.

Acoba on Monday published advice to Zahawi, dated from February, approving the appointment and saying that there was no direct overlap between Zahawi’s government service and his new job. He will not be allowed to lobby government until January 2025.

Zahawi was once considered a contender to lead the Tory party. However, he played a central role in the turmoil at the end of Boris Johnson’s time as prime minister. Johnson appointed Zahawi as his chancellor in July 2022 as he tried to retain power, only for Zahawi to turn on him two days later and call for his resignation.

After Liz Truss replaced Johnson in No 10, Zahawi was sacked, making him the UK’s shortest-serving chancellor since 1970, when Iain Macleod died in office.

Zahawi was sacked as Conservative party chair by Rishi Sunak in January 2023 after he was found to have breached the ministerial code by failing to declare an HM Revenue and Customs investigation into his tax affairs. Before that he had also served as the secretary of state for education, as well as in ministerial jobs in intergovernmental relations, equalities, business and health.

On Sunday, Zahawi admitted for the first time he paid nearly £5m to HMRC to settle his tax affairs, after the Guardian first reported the figure last year. The former chancellor told the BBC he had paid the sum after making what he called a “careless mistake” with the tax he paid on the sales of shares in YouGov, the polling company he helped found.

As chair of Very, Zahawi will be tasked with achieving “continued sales and profit growth, as well as exploring expansion of the business in new areas”. He will also look at “strategic options for the business” that could involve looking for new backers.

Before becoming an MP, Zahawi founded YouGov. He has long been close to the Barclays, and at one point last year was considered to be in the running to be chair of the owner of the Daily Telegraph newspaper, which was previously controlled by the family.

Zahawi will have to oversee a relationship with a new auditor after Deloitte quit in March. Deloitte said it resigned after struggling to find “appropriate and relevant information in respect of certain financing arrangements between companies in the wider group”. Accounts for Very Group’s holding company, Shop Direct Holdings Ltd, have been overdue since 30 December.

In a statement, 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.”

Aidan Barclay said he was “delighted” that Zahawi was joining. He said he had a “proven track record in digital growth and innovation, and [is] highly respected in the UK and global markets”.