Clarke, one of the most senior executives in the European food industry, told the board he was considering moving on to other opportunities having delivered the initial turnaround and set a course for future sustainable growth.
Premier announced Clarke had stepped down from the board with immediate effect and had agreed to remain available to the business until mid-2013 to ensure an orderly handover.
The swift appointment of former Coca-Cola and Vodafone executive Gavin Darby was not enough to allay the fears of spooked stockholders, with shares in Premier falling 12 per cent following the announcement.
Darby spent 15 years at Coca-Cola before moving to Vodafone in 2001, but has not worked in the food industry since.
He said, “I am very excited to be taking on this role. Although markets remain difficult, I look forward to working with the team to develop and grow the company’s power brands in the coming years.
“Premier Foods has great potential and I fully intend to invest a significant personal sum in the shares of the company after the full year results are published in February which the company will match.”
Warburg spent £99m on a 15.71 per cent into the business in March 2009, returning to up its stake by two per cent in August the same year.
Premier, which controls famous brands such as Hovis bread, Mr Kipling cakes and the Bisto and Oxo gravies, has a current market cap of about £233m and almost four times as much debt.
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