Premier Foods chief executive Michael Clarke resigns

  • 28 January 2013
  • From the section Business
Loaf of Hovis bread
Image caption Hovis is one of Premier's key brands

Shares in Premier Foods - the firm behind brands such as Hovis, Bisto and Oxo - closed down 12% after its chief executive resigned.

Premier Foods said Michael Clarke would step down from the board with immediate effect.

Mr Clarke has led the firm for 18 months, during which time he has overseen the sale of several brands in order to cut the firm's debt burden.

His replacement is Gavin Darby, the former Cable & Wireless Worldwide head.

Mr Darby will take up his new post on 4 February.

Premier said Mr Clarke had indicated that he was "potentially considering moving on to pursue other business opportunities".

It added he had agreed to "remain available" to the company until mid 2013 to help with the handover.

Change 'unhelpful'

Premier has been selling off top name brands which it says it does not consider "core" ones, in order to cut its debts of more than £1bn.

Well-known brands that have been sold include the Branston range of pickles and sauces, Robertson's jam and Sarson's vinegar.

In November last year, Premier also said it would be cutting 900 jobs at its bread division and closing two bakeries.

Premier Foods' chairman David Beever said: "Michael Clarke and the team have done a first class job in stabilising the business, strengthening its balance sheet, divesting non-core businesses and generating momentum."

Shares in Premier Foods were down 14.75 pence, or 12.2%, at 105.75p in afternoon trade.

"We see the surprise change of leadership as unhelpful to Premier's stability and organic growth prospects," said Martin Deboo, an analyst at Investec, in a research note.

"With its financial restructuring complete, we think that consistency and longevity of leadership was going to be critical to its prosperity. We now anticipate a further period of uncertainty."

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