Northern Foods: 'Holland's Pies is not up for sale'

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Northern Foods: 'Holland's Pies is not up for sale'

Related tags: Northern foods, Companies listed on the london stock exchange, Food manufacturers of the united kingdom

Northern Foods bosses "have not and are not looking to sell" Holland's Pies, the firm has insisted following its controversial decision to suspend the pie maker's md.

Holland's Pies' md Neil Court-Johnston (pictured above left with Sainsbury's boss Justin King) was suspended last month in the wake of allegations that he had conducted talks with rival firms and investors regarding a potential management buyout without the consent of company bosses.

A spokesman for Northern Foods declined to comment on Court-Johnston's position, but told FoodManufacture.co.uk that the company had not been and was not looking to sell the business. He added: "We have not and are not looking to sell Holland's and in fact we are investing in the business and the brand currently."

Robin Walker, group md, convenience foods, is running Holland's on an interim basis, he confirmed.

Unpopular decision

But Court-Johnston's suspension has not gone down well with some shareholders, who have raised concerns about Northern Foods' strategy​ in postings on the Crain's Manchester Business website.

One respondent called James Rich said: "What's going on at Northern? First the fuss in the biscuits division, are we closing, are we not? Then the crazy actions at Green Isle leading to hunger striking employees. Then this weird story around Holland's, which has always been a bit suspect in their portfolio following the sale of Pork Farms.

"Add to this disagreements with M&S (Fenland Foods), Morrisons (C&G Hull), and Sainsbury's (Ethnic Cuisine​) and it seems Northern is fighting everyone both internally and externally."

Several contributors to the site also praised Court-Johnston, who managed to maintain strong growth​ at Holland's throughout the economic downturn.

R.Guha said: "As well as being a shareholder of Northern Foods, I know a number of people who work at Holland's Pies. The workforce sees Court-Johnston as a success; he has transformed the fortunes of the company after many years of decline and protected jobs in the midst of a crash."

The Northern Foods spokesman said: "Holland's is operating as normal. The business has over 300 employees rather than just one. Robin Walker, who already has ultimate responsibility for Holland's, is overseeing the business.Our only on-the-record comment is that we wouldn't comment on matters relating to individual employees."

He declined to comment on the turnover of the business, but clarified: "Sales are nowhere near £40m, as one paper suggested."

Related topics: Chilled foods, People & Skills

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