Premier Foods chief exec Gavin Darby to step down

Gavin Darby is to step down as boss of Premier Foods less than four months after he saw off a bid to oust him from the role.

Premier, which owns brands including Mr Kipling and produces Cadbury cakes under licence, today (12 November) announced Darby would leave the business on 31 January 2019 after six years in the role.

The announcement accompanied its half-yearly results in which it admitted its cake business had been hit by problems with its new logistics operation. (See story here.)

Four months ago, Darby was re-elected as chief executive of Premier despite Oasis Management Company – the largest independent investor in the company – urging other shareholders to vote against his re-election.

Reacting to today’s news, Oasis said it welcomed Darby’s departure and was optimistic about the path ahead.

“We look forward to Premier Foods accelerating and realizing its true potential. We thank (Premier Foods chairman) Keith Hamill for his leadership and action,” it added in a statement.

Premier’s board, which backed Darby at the time of the Oasis challenge, is to now start a search for his successor.

The company also today revealed a new initiative of concentrating resources on areas of the business with the best growth potential, and that it is looking to sell its Ambrosia brand and factory in Devon to reduce debt.

“The board has determined it should focus resources on areas of the business which have the best potential for growth through accelerated investment in consumer marketing and high return capital projects,” explained Darby.

“Accordingly, we are pursuing options to fund these plans as well as delivering a meaningful reduction in net debt, through discussions with third parties regarding the potential disposal of our Ambrosia brand.”

Darby added that the business had a strong innovation plan in place for the second half of its financial year, and that profit expectations for the full year remain unchanged.

"Having today announced a new strategic initiative for the business, I have decided to step down as CEO on 31st January 2019,” he said.

Darby joined Premier in 2013 following the sudden departure of Michael Clarke. His experience includes 12 years with Coca-Cola and a period as CEO of Cable & Wireless Worldwide, where he oversaw its sale to another former employer, Vodafone.

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