Mr Kipling maker appoints new chairman and chief executive

Former boss Gavin Darby left in January after pressure from shareholders

Mr Kipling maker Premier Foods has announced a number of changes at boardroom level. Photograph: Reuters

Mr Kipling maker Premier Foods has announced a number of changes at boardroom level. Photograph: Reuters

 

Mr Kipling maker Premier Foods has announced the appointment of a new chief executive and chairman.

The food group, which also produces Ambrosia custard and Bisto gravy, decided to review options earlier this year after former boss Gavin Darby left in January.

He was under shareholder pressure following a drop in the share price after a takeover attempt by US food maker McCormick & Co fell through three years ago.

Results earlier in the summer showed it slid to a £42.7 million (€49.5 million) annual loss as it was hammered by pension charges and restructuring costs.

The food manufacturer slipped to a pre-tax loss for the year to March 2019 from a £20.9 million (€23.1 million) profit the previous year. It saw profitability particularly impacted by an anti-discrimination ruling on women’s pensions by the High Court last year.

Improved performance

However, the company saw an improved performance in the first quarter of this year, reporting an increase of 1.1 per cent in group sales as its Mr Kipling cakes and Batchelors brands benefitted from a TV advertising push.

In a note investors on Friday, the company said Colin Day had been appointed non-executive chairman, while Alex Whitehouse, UK managing director, had been appointed chief executive and a member of the board.

Both are permanent appointments and effective Friday. Alastair Murray, the chief financial officer for the last six years and the acting chief executive for the past seven months, has agreed to leave the business with effect from Friday.

Duncan Leggett, group director of financial control and corporate development, will become acting chief financial officer pending a permanent appointment.

Richard Hodgson, senior independent director said he was “delighted” Mr Day was joining the company as chairman.

“He will bring extensive experience at a pivotal time in the company’s history,” he said. “We are also very pleased that Alex Whitehouse, who has led the successful turnaround of our UK business, has accepted the role of Group CEO.

“On behalf of the board I would like to thank Alastair Murray for his outstanding contribution to the business, both as CFO and more latterly as acting CEO, and wish him all the best for the future.”

Mr Day said it was a “key juncture” for the company as it looks to deliver value for shareholders. “It is the intention to further strengthen the board with the appointment of an additional two independent non-executive directors as soon as possible,” he said.

Mr Whitehouse said he would seek “to drive further value from our great portfolio of brands”.

“I’m very encouraged by the improved performance of the business over the last couple of years and see this as something we can build on further,” he added.