In a statement following the company’s annual general meeting (AGM) today (18 July), during which Darby faced re-election as CEO, Premier Foods confirmed he had been backed by 59% of votes, with 41% of shareholders voting against him. A total of 22% of votes were withheld, but these are discounted for the purposes of the motion.
Premier Foods chairman Keith Hamill said: “Over recent weeks we have had discussions with a substantial proportion of the major shareholders, which has included listening to the concerns expressed by those whose support we have still to earn. The board will give careful consideration to all shareholders’ views. Discussions with shareholders will continue, including matters arising from voting at the AGM.
“The board is committed to continuing its strategy of improving performance and reducing net debt, while working in parallel to identify other strategic opportunities to accelerate the company's turnaround to create value for shareholders."
A Premier Foods spokesman said: “The vast majority of ‘floating voters’ – those who listened to the debate rather than stuck to entrenched positions – swung behind Gavin and backed him to continue delivering the board's strategy.
“They clearly recognise that this is a marathon, not a sprint, and the best way forward is to continue growing revenue from new product development, international expansion and the strategic partnerships with Nissin [Food Products] and Mondelēz [International] and use that money to keep paying down the debt.”
A source close to the dispute said: “The protest vote was obviously inflated by Oasis indulging in the underhand tactic of borrowing shares – a grubby attempt to buy influence on the company on the cheap (i.e. paying a fee to loan the shares rather than buying them).”
Mr Kipling, Batchelors
Earlier today, Premier Foods reported sales for the first quarter of 2018 were up by 1.7% compared to the same period last year, driven by brands such as Mr Kipling and Batchelors.
In May, the business reported its strongest sales growth for five years in results for the year to 31 March 2018.
Read our exclusive interview with Gavin Darby on his leadership of Premier Foods, first published in the July issue of Food Manufacture magazine.