The ‘mutually agreed’ leadership decision comes weeks after the Canadian dairy processor Saputo completed its acquisition of the Cathedral City and Clover owner in a deal worth £975m.
Atherton has assumed the position of president and chief operating officer of Saputo’s Dairy Division (UK) with immediate effect, although Allen would remain with the company until July 2019 to ensure a smooth transition, Saputo said in a statement.
Atherton held senior management positions within publicly-listed companies in the UK before joining Dairy Crest in 2005.
He was appointed as an executive director and group finance director in 2013 and has worked as deputy chief executive since January 2018, a role in which he was “instrumental” in determining the strategic direction of Dairy Crest, Saputo said.
Atherton will report into Kai Bockmann, Saputo's president and chief operating officer. The announcement follows the acquisition of Dairy Crest by Saputo on 15 April. At the time Saputo described Dairy Crest as an “attractive platform” which fitted its “growth strategy”.
Allen became Dairy Crest CEO on 1 January 2007, having been responsible for its household business since 2003.
For the 12-month period ended 31 March 2018, Dairy Crest had revenues of about £456.8m and profit after tax of about £149.5m, which included exceptional items representing up to £98.9m.
During the six-month period ended 30 September 2018, the cheesemaker had revenues of approximately £224.9m and profit after tax of £14.5m.