Sunday 21 October 2018

Activist has candidates hungry for Mr Kipling role as it seeks chief’s removal

Oasis Management is calling for the immediate removal of Gavin Darby from Premier Foods.

Oasis has candidates ready to replace Gavin Darby (Premier Foods/PA)
Oasis has candidates ready to replace Gavin Darby (Premier Foods/PA)

By Ravender Sembhy, Press Association City Editor

Oasis Management, the activist investor calling for the head of Premier Foods’ chief executive Gavin Darby, has claimed it has candidates chomping at the bit to head up the Mr Kipling cake firm.

Oasis, Premier’s second largest investor with a stake of about 9%, said it has been approached by candidates who have “excellent skills and are available immediately”.

The shareholder is calling for the immediate removal of Mr Darby, who it says has presided over five years of value destruction, poor financial performances and exhibited a lack of strategy.

In response to another statement of support for Mr Darby from Premier chairman Keith Hamill, Oasis said: “We are disappointed to see that the board refuses to acknowledge the shareholder value destruction, poor financial performance and lack of strategy at the now zombie-like Premier Foods under the shocking reign of Gavin Darby.

“Furthermore Oasis have CEO candidates who have approached us, have excellent skills and are available immediately.”

It came after Mr Hamill said Mr Darby is “running the company well”, claiming the Oasis proposal offers risks “creating instability”.

Oasis plans to vote against Mr Darby’s re-election at Premier’s forthcoming AGM on July 18, and is encouraging other shareholders to do the same.

The investor also took aim at Mr Darby’s successful defence of a takeover tilt from US firm McCormick in 2016.

At the time Mr Darby, who has been in the top job since 2013, saw some shareholders vent their anger for rejecting McCormick’s indicative offers, which valued the company at a 90% premium to its share price.

“After five years of failure and two years after a 65p takeover approach, we still do not see any share price or operational improvement. The time has come for Gavin Darby to go,” it said.

At the time, instead of tying up with McCormick, Premier announced a collaboration agreement Nissin, which also took a non-executive position on Premier’s board.

Premier Foods is also behind Ambrosia custard and Bisto gravy.

Press Association

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