Zahawi takes on Very Group role days after quitting as MP

Nadhim Zahawi, the former chancellor, is to be named as chairman of one of Britain's biggest online retailers, days after confirming that he would step down from parliament at the next general election.

Sky News has learnt that Mr Zahawi is to be appointed non-executive chair of Very Group, the largest remaining part of the Barclay family's business empire.

Sources said the appointment, which will see him replacing interim chair Aidan Barclay, would be announced on Monday.

His arrival at Very Group will come during a period of turbulence for the Barclay family, who own The Daily Telegraph but are unable to exert influence over it under a government order while its future ownership remains uncertain, subject to a forthcoming auction.

Mr Zahawi's appointment at Very Group, first revealed by Sky News in March, is likely to prompt a search for fresh equity investment in the near term, as well as a broader review of its capital structure.

The company, which owns the Very and Littlewoods brands, is weighed down by debt, but has nearly 4.5 million customers and significant expansion targets.

Based in Liverpool, it sells electrical goods, homewares and fashion, backed by a large consumer finance arm.

It is said to have performed resiliently despite uncertainty over its ownership.

The company recently said it had secured £125m of new debt funding from Carlyle Global Credit and IMI, which the company has said is designed to support future growth.

Mr Zahawi, the MP for Stratford-on-Avon since 2010, had a brief stint as chancellor of the exchequer, while he also held ministerial posts at the Department of Health and Social Care - where he oversaw the vaccine rollout during the COVID pandemic - the Department for Business and as chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

He was made Conservative Party chairman by Rishi Sunak but was dismissed for failing to disclose he was being investigated by HMRC and the National Crime Agency over a multi-million 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".

Mr Zahawi's announcement last week that he would not stand again at the next election meant he joined the likes of Theresa May, the ex-prime minister, and former Conservative Party chairman Sir Brandon Lewis in deciding to leave parliament.

Prior to his political career, he was the founder of YouGov, while he is now a patron of the Adam Smith Institute, the economic thinktank.

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Mr Zahawi has been playing a role as an intermediary between the Barclay family and the Abu Dhabi-based investor IMI Investments since its interest in participating in a bid for The Daily Telegraph emerged last summer.

He had been tipped to chair the newspaper group if RedBird IMI, a vehicle fronted by former CNN president Jeff Zucker, had been successful in buying it.

However, a fierce backlash from Conservative parliamentarians prompted Downing Street to intervene and amend legislation to prohibit ownership of British newspaper titles by investors connected to a foreign state.

RedBird IMI is now finalising preparations to conduct a further auction of the Telegraph newspapers and The Spectator magazine.

The Barclays, who used to own London's Ritz hotel, have already lost control of several of their corporate assets.

In February, Yodel Group, their parcel delivery business, narrowly averted insolvency when it was sold to a consortium backed by executives at Shift, a rival.

The parent company of ArrowXL, another delivery firm they own, had been forced into administration by HSBC, its principal lender.

Half of the £1.2bn loan that the Barclays took from RedBird IMI and IMI was secured against their media assets, with the bulk of the remainder said to have been secured against other assets including Very Group.

At various points in the last decade, the Telegraph proprietors have explored a sale of the online shopping business, having valued it at over £3bn.

Very Group and Mr Zahawi both declined to comment.