The group has been without a chief executive since Peter Sherlock resigned abruptly in August after a boardroom row. It is understood that Mr Sherlock and the company are close to an agreement on his compensation.
The company also warned yesterday that it would be several months before its trading performance improved and announced a review of the business that may lead to large job cuts. Operating profit fell by a third to £22.5m in the 16 weeks to 21 January on revenue that rose from £598.6m to £639.7m.
Sir Christopher Bland, NFC's new chairman, said the results were disappointing and the company continued to face a tough trading environment.
Sir Christopher said the review would be completed by the year-end. "It is likely to lead to additional provisions for the costs of redundancies, site disposals, elimination of loss-making operations and withdrawal from unprofitable contracts," he said.
Sir Christopher said there would be no sacred cows: "Anything that loses money is personally offensive to me." He added that he would make big job cuts "if that is the price we have to pay to make the business healthy and allow it to grow.
Sir Christopher said Mr Murphy's job would be to implement and manage the review's conclusions.
Mr Murphy, an Irishman who built his reputation initially at GrandMet in Britain and the US, became chief executive of Greencore, the privatised Irish Sugar company, in 1991. He is credited with steering the group successfully through stormy waters after the resignation of his predecessor and through the fiasco that ensued when the Irish Government sold its remaining stake two years ago.
Yesterday he said: "My priority number one at the company will be to do a lot of listening. The strategic direction of the business is pretty well-settled, with established operations in the UK and US and a foothold in Europe. My job will be to deliver results against the background of that strategy."
Diary page 34