SHARES in Glanbia fell more than 2pc yesterday after company chief John Moloney unexpectedly revealed plans to step down from his position.
The long-time managing director of the dairy company will quit at the end of this year. The 58-year-old had been expected to step down at the end of 2014.
Finance director Siobhan Talbot has been tabbed as his replacement. She will be officially named managing director designate at the start of June.
The move spooked investors, with the stock falling from its all-time high to €10.86 – a slide of 2.1pc.
Mr Moloney, who has been in the top job for 12 years, said he felt it was time to move after he had successfully shepherded the spinning out of the company's milk business over the last year. The share price has almost doubled since that plan was revealed last August.
"The organisation is in a good place and that culminated in the restructuring of the milk business. We have clarity in the milk-processing sector now and I felt that, given I was due to stand down in a year, any planning now would have to look at a longer timeframe. It is a natural stopping point for me."
For her part, Ms Talbot, who becomes the first woman to be appointed to head a listed company in Ireland, said she would be focused on growing the company, both organically and through acquisitions if need be.
Mr Moloney's exit brings to an end one of the most dynamic careers in the food industry.
A 25-year veteran of Glanbia and its predecessor companies, he was appointed as managing director in 2001.
Since then, the share price has increased more than fivefold and Glanbia has been transformed from an Irish food business into a food multinational, with operations all over the world.
Mr Moloney was instrumental in harnessing the firm's whey protein sector into a consumer-facing business that has capitalised on the surging interest in fitness supplements from consumers around the world, but in particular in the US.
By securing the spinning out of Glanbia's milk business into a separate company last year, he has completed a transformation that began a decade ago.
Industry players were quick to pay tribute to Mr Moloney.
Glanbia chairman Liam Herlihy gave a "big thank you" to the outgoing MD, while Greencore boss Patrick Coveney highlighted how he had "completely reshaped Glanbia into an international and high-performing food business with real scale and focus around the ingredients portion and nutritionals business".
"He has done all that while being humble and grounded and absolutely consistent," Mr Coveney added.
As well as the change at the top, Glanbia also announced two other management changes at its AGM yesterday.
Hugh McGuire will join the board as chief executive of Global Performance Nutrition. Brian Phelan, who is an executive director, will become chief executive of Global Ingredients.