Northern Foods' chief executive to join Brakes

The chief executive of Northern Foods is leaving to join Brakes, the supplier to the catering industry, just days after the maker of Goodfella's Pizzas unveiled a merger with Ireland's Greencore.

Stefan Barden, who has been at the helm of Northern Foods since February 2007, was conspicuous by his absence from last week's merger statement. Mr Barden will join Brakes in January in the new role of UK chief executive, reporting into its group chief executive Philip Jansen. However, his appointment fuelled speculation that Bain Capital – the private equity firm that acquired Brakes for about £1.4bn in 2007 – may seek an exit, such as a flotation or sale, over the next few years.

Mr Barden declined to comment on Bain Capital's plans, but said: "Clearly, we all want to be rewarded."

Brakes grew group pre-tax profits by 9 per cent to £112.2m for the year to 31 December 2009. Following the merger between Northern Foods and Greencore, the new business is to be named Essenta Foods, with its headquarters based in Dublin. Simon Herrick, Northern Foods' group finance director, will become acting chief executive until the merger completes. Greencore's chief executive Patrick Coveney will take the same role at Essenta. Essenta will be chaired by Northern Foods' chairman Anthony Hobson.

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