The transport group said he would continue to act as a consultant until he officially stepped down at the end of the financial year in September. It dismissed City speculation that Mr Burns was a casualty of the changing corporate climate at NFC.
Mr Burns, 45, is managing director of NFC's transport and logistics business, a division created out of a merger of two operations following a strategic review last year by Peter Sherlock, the new chief executive.
He joined NFC from Hull University in 1971 and was appointed to the board in 1988 to head the logistics business. He holds 2.3 million shares worth more than pounds 5m. An NFC spokesman said the resignation was a personal decision. He did not know if Mr Burns, who was not available for comment, would receive compensation.
NFC is expanding abroad after a series of acquisitions, and yesterday announced the purchase of a German distributor for a total of pounds 6.1m. There have been redundancies and the proportion of employee shareholders has diminished as institutional investors moved in.
In January, Sir Peter Thompson, the former chairman who led the employee buyout of NFC in 1982, accused his successor of abandoning the company's 'heritage and culture'. He felt the principles of employee consultation were being lost, and that elitism was creeping into the company with such things as executive share options.
One City analyst said the culture of NFC was changing, but not necessarily for the worse. 'The performance recently has been lacklustre and the City was hoping Mr Sherlock would take a more aggressive approach and inject fresh blood.'Reuse content