Today's Falling Knife: Premier Foods Falls 10%

LONDON -- Premier Foods  (LSE: PFD  ) has announced that the successor to chief executive Michael Clarke will be Gavin Darby, formerly CEO of Cable & Wireless Worldwide, which he successfully turned around before negotiating its eventual sale to Vodafone.

Clarke will step down from the board with immediate effect, after indicating that, "having delivered the initial turnaround of the company and set a course for future sustainable profitable growth," he was considering moving on to pursue other opportunities.

Darby has considerable experience in the consumer goods sector, spending 15 years at Coca-Cola in senior leadership roles before moving to Vodafone in 2001, where he was latterly CEO for its non-European joint ventures, the fastest-growing segment of the company. He commented:

I am very excited to be taking on this role. Although markets remain difficult, I look forward to working with the team to develop and grow the company's Power Brands in the coming years. Premier Foods has great potential, and I fully intend to invest a significant personal sum in the shares of the company after the full-year results are published in February.

Premier Foods expects its final results to be in line with current market expectations, following Q4 trading that met the company's expectations.

Chairman David Beever commented:

I am delighted to welcome Gavin Darby to Premier Foods. His strong FMCG background and management track record make him the ideal candidate to lead the Company.

Michael Clarke and the team have done a first-class job in stabilizing the business, strengthening its balance sheet, divesting non-core businesses, and generating momentum. This is a significant achievement in a challenging market, and I would like to thank Mike on behalf of the Board for his contribution.

Shares in the company fell 9.5% (11 pence) to 109 pence in trading this morning, following the news -- quite often the case when a successful CEO announces their departure, as seen recently at Greggs' Ken McMeikan. Management can make all the difference to a company's success and is a key value sought by no less than one of the greatest investors the world has ever seen, Warren Buffett.

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