Cake boss quits job to rebuild a monastery

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The Independent Online

God's calling has drowned out the grumbles of hungry stomachs for the boss of Inter Link Foods, who would rather restore the fortunes of a dilapidated Manchester monastery than run Britain's second-biggest cake maker.

Paul Griffiths, 53, quit his £200,000-a-year job yesterday to dedicate his time instead to resurrecting Gorton Monastery, a 19th-century Franciscan foundation designed by Edward Pugin, which styles itself as Manchester's Taj Mahal because it once featured on a watch list of the most endangered sites in the world that included the Indian palace.

The fate of Gorton Monastery is a family obsession for the Griffithses: Paul's wife, Elaine, heads the trust founded to raise funds to rebuild the site, which lay derelict in the 1990s after a plan to redevelop it fell flat. Mrs Griffiths already works full time for the Monastery of St Francis and Gorton Trust, which last year raised £8m for its cause.

Mr Griffiths' departure comes as Inter Link's other directors mull a private equity-backed management buyout bid for the company. He will receive a pay-off worth tens of thousands of pounds. His decision to leave was a shock for the cake maker, which issued a profit warning in July.

Jeremy Hamer, Inter Link's deputy chairman, said: "We weren't expecting it. Paul wanted to go and we felt we should allow it to happen. This monastery project is a major thing in both his life and his wife's."

Mr Griffiths has a long history with the monastery, where he served as an altar boy in his youth. He was inspired to get involved with the restoration project after passing the derelict monastery on a train 11 years ago. As the chief executive of Inter Link, a Blackburn-based bakery started by its chairman, Alwin Thompson, in 1994, Mr Griffiths had to fit in his monastery work in the evenings and at the weekends.

Gorton Monastery, which is in a rundown neighbourhood, was built in the High Victorian Gothic style. The architect's father, Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, designed the Houses of Parliament.