Schofield to step down at Premier

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The Independent Online

Shares in Premier Foods, the maker of Branston pickle, jumped by more than 4 per cent yesterday after it said Robert Schofield, its chief executive, would retire inside the next 12 months.

Premier Foods said that Mr Schofield, who took the helm in 2002 ahead of it floating at 215p in June 2004, plans to retire on the appointment of his successor no later than 28 April 2012. His tenure will be remembered for the group paying a hefty premium to acquire RHM, the maker of Hovis bread and Bisto gravy, for £1.2bn in 2007. This left it with debts of £1.8bn, which forced it to launch a £404m rights issue in March 2009 after losses rose to £444m.

But after falling to a record low of 16p, shares in Premier Foods have risen over the past five months, helped by the sale of its Quorn and meat-free sausage brand Cauldron for £205m. Shares in Premier closed up 1.43p, or 4.65 per cent, to 32.17p. Mr Schofield, 59, said: "We have a powerful portfolio of iconic brands, which we plan to grow further."