The Business on: Robert Schofield, Chief executive, Premier Foods
Tuesday 25 January 2011
Britain's biggest grocer?
That's not a bad description. Though it has no shops of its own, Premier is the country's largest food manufacturer and owns a string of brands, from Hovis to Branston Pickle.
So what's he up to?
Mr Schofield announced yesterday that Premier is getting rid of one of its best-known brands. Quorn, the company's meat-free food range, is being sold to a private equity consortium for £205m.
That's a lot of money for something so grey and tasteless.
You're being a bit harsh – plenty of people like Quorn. Still, it has not been the most successful of investments for Premier, which is booking a £25m loss on a business it bought six years ago.
So why is it selling?
Well, Premier owes the best part of £1.2bn to creditors, a debt pile it racked up during a supermarket sweep-style acquisitions spree in the early part of Mr Schofield's tenure at the company (he took over in 2002).
Has that come back to haunt him?
Well he's certainly faced somecriticism from shareholders, though it has to be said that he won plaudits during Premier's expansionary years, when investors were urging companies to take on more debt. People have short memories though and the rising cost of commodities plus the credit crunch have rather caught the company out.
More sales to come then?
The company certainly says it is open to the idea of further disposals and it's committed to reducing debt.
And what about the boss?
Mr Schofield's own position seems relatively safe. He has a supportive board and the business, leaving aside its financing issues for a moment, is performing well, partly because its chief executive has been so ruthless on cost cuts and integration.
Is that his background?
He spent eight years with Nestlé in the Far East and has spent his whole career running food businesses.
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