Martin Blackwell leaves the Charity Retail Association 'for personal reasons'

His place has been taken on an interim basis by Steve Biddle, a CRA board member

Martin Blackwell
Martin Blackwell

Martin Blackwell, chief executive of the Charity Retail Association, has left the membership body after just seven months for personal reasons, according to the CRA’s interim chief executive.

Blackwell, who joined the CRA in January, left the organisation on 21 July, said Steve Biddle, the CRA board member who is acting as chief executive while a replacement for Blackwell is found.

"Martin left at the back end of July for personal reasons," Biddle told Third Sector. "It was decided that in the circumstances it would be better if he left immediately. At the end of the day, these things happen."

Biddle, who is also chair of the CRA’s finance committee, said he was asked to temporarily lead the CRA by Ben Merrett, chair of the CRA board.

Merrett said Blackwell’s departure was motivated partly by his long commute from East Anglia to the CRA’s offices in London but that personal reasons also played a part. He added that Blackwell had said he was available to help the organisation over the coming months.

Blackwell was a newcomer to the charity sector, having previously been chief executive of two membership organisations, the Association of Town Centre Management and Action for Market Towns.

He had also spent 20 years working for the retail chain WHSmith. He was the CRA’s third chief executive, succeeding Warren Alexander, who served for five years, and Lekha Klouda, who founded the organisation and served for 16 years.

Blackwell could not be reached for comment on Tuesday morning.

The CRA has begun advertising for a new chief executive "with passion, drive and diplomacy" on a salary of £65,000 a year.

Biddle said the organisation hoped to appoint someone at the end of October and they would be likely to be in post three months later. The closing date for applications is 14 September.

Biddle has worked as a semi-retired finance and IT consultant since 2013, and previously spent more than 20 years at the British Heart Foundation, where he was appointed head of finance for the charity's retail division.

He said the CRA’s priorities over the coming months included working with HM Revenue & Customs on improving Gift Aid declarations and processes.

Three other staff members have left the CRA, which employs eight people, since January: Liam Challenger, the association’s media and member communications officer left to go travelling in May; Dan Rattigan, who joined as senior public policy officer last November, left for a job at the MS Society earlier this year; and Andreas Maier, head of business development, resigned last month.

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