Four months after joining Premier Foods, its chief operating officer Geoff Eaton has left the firm, on the same day (February 4) its new ceo Gavin Darby, joined the debt-laden food manufacturer.
Premier Foods said in a statement that it wanted to introduce “a flatter executive management structure”. The new structure – which does not include the role of chief operating officer – will enable commercial and functional management to report directly to the ceo.
“It has therefore been agreed with Geoff Eaton, current chief operating officer, that he will step down from the board of directors with immediate effect and will leave the company,” said the company.
Darby said: “I would like to thank Geoff for his contribution to the company and wish him well in his future career. I very much look forward to working with the management team to continue the transformation of Premier Foods.”
Eaton is the third senior manager to leave Britain’s biggest food manufacturer in four months. His departure follows the shock resignation of ceo Michael Clarke last week.
Shore Capital analysts Clive Black and Darren Shirley said they were surprised and disappointed to learn of Clarke's resignation. “In addition to our surprise, we cannot hide our disappointment at Mr Clarke’s departure, because we have deemed him to be an effective leader to date, not least because of his commercial capabilities and relationships,” they said in a note.
Close two bakeries
In November, the firm’s Iwan Williams resigned his position as md, the week after the firm revealed plans to close two bakeries in Birmingham and London with the loss of 900 jobs.
At the time of Eaton’s appointment Premier Foods said the newly created position of chief operating officer would “accelerate transformation” within the firm.
It added that Eaton, who reported directly to former ceo Clarke, would help the leadership team deliver on its divestiture and cost reduction plans.
He was also tasked with working on “strategic initiatives” to grow its Power Brands − Batchelors, Bisto, Ambrosia, Hovis, Loyd Grossman, Mr Kipling, Oxo and Sharwood's.
“Geoff has extensive experience of tackling complex financial and operational restructuring projects and creating value through organic growth,” said Premier Food last October. “Most recently he was ceo of Uniq, leading a successful turnaround and growth of the company prior to its acquisition by Greencore group."