The boss of Goodfella’s pizza and Fox’s biscuit maker Northern Foods is to join food wholesaler Brakes to run its UK operation, it has emerged.
Stefan Barden’s departure comes days after Leeds-based Northern announced plans to merge with the UK’s biggest sandwich-maker, Greencore.
Mr Barden’s departure on Tuesday is much earlier than expected as it had been thought he would stay until the merger completed in the second quarter of 2011. He will start in the newly created role of Brakes UK chief executive in January.
Brakes sells and delivers food, drink and cooking equipment to caterers, pubs and restaurants, including contract caterer Compass Group and pub group Mitchells & Butlers. It is owned by American private equity giant Bain Capital and has annual sales of £2.6 billion of which £1.7 billion are in the UK. The company has in recent years expanded overseas through acquisitions in France, Sweden and Ireland.
Mr Barden’s role will be to run the UK business, freeing up chief operating officer Ian Goldsmith to look for other opportunities abroad.
Mr Barden is credited with having turned around Northern in his four years in charge and has paved the way for its merger. If approved by shareholders, Northern and Greencore will combine to create Essenta Foods, which will have annual sales of £1.7 billion.
Greencore chief executive Patrick Coveney and Northern chairman Anthony Hobson are set to take up the same roles at the new company.
Northern on Wednesday announced that group financial director Simon Herrick will be acting-chief executive until the merger completes, after which he will become Essenta’s finance director. Essenta will be based in Dublin with an operational base in Yorkshire, with nearly all of its 15,000 jobs based in the UK.
Northern, one of the biggest suppliers of own-label products in the UK, makes pies, sandwiches, salads, puddings and ready meals from sites including Gunstones, near Sheffield, Batley, Uttoxeter and Kirkham.
Dublin-based Greencore makes own label sandwiches and other chilled convenience food for some of the biggest supermarket chains in the UK.