The Business On... Mike Clarke, CEO-designate, Premier Foods
Friday 15 July 2011
Since yesterday, when Premier announced his appointment. We've known for a while that Robert Schofield, Premier's current boss, was planning to retire. Now we know who'll replace him.
So who is he?
He's the European boss of Kraft Foods, the American food producer. He's swapping Milka and Toblerone for Oxo and Branston's Pickle.
Does he know the UK market?
He should. You may remember a British company called Cadbury, which Kraft picked up rather controversially last year. Mr Clarke has been in charge of integrating the business (like closing the Cadbury factory in Keynsham that Kraft had said it would keep open prior to the deal, for example).
Crikey. Should people worry?
Not necessarily, though Premier needs a strong guiding hand. It got caught out during the credit crisis after racking up debt to fund an acquisitions spree. And though it has sold off businesses since then to repair the damage, trading is exceptionally tough.
So when does Mr Clarke arrive?
September, so he has a couple of months to arrange the practicalities of swapping Switzerland, where he lives now, for St Albans, where Premier's head office is based. It may be a wrench: Mr Clarke is a devoted snowboarder and though Milton Keynes, just down the road, boasts an artificial slope, it's hardly the Alps.
He's the outdoors type then?
He says he always wanted to be a surfer. At least, there'll be fewer temptations on the chocolate front in his new job (Premier's Mr Kipling cakes excluded).
Will there be a culture clash?
Mr Clarke once told Kraft's website that his favourite saying is "don't admire the problem, work the solution", which sounds wonderfully American. He has spent much of his career working for US companies, but Mr Clarke is Irish. He's lived a pretty global life though, growing up in South Africa and moving between the US, Europe and Asia.
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