Peter Austen is to step down as MD of commercial at wholesaling giant Palmer & Harvey after 14 years at the company, The Grocer can reveal.

CEO Chris Etherington said Austen had played an "outstanding role" in the last two management buyouts at the UK's biggest wholesaler and had made a significant contribution to the company's change of direction over the past three years. During that time, P&H has been reorganised into four business channels distribution, multiples, independents and wholesale.

He was also instrumental in the formation of PalMak a buying alliance between Makro and P&H last year.

"I've thoroughly enjoyed my time at Palmer & Harvey and am very much looking forward to taking my experience into new arenas," said Austen, who will continue in his role until a successor is found.

Added Etherington: "His insight and knowledge, alongside a focused approach to delivering results, have been invaluable. He has established an extremely well respected reputation as a leading figure in wholesale."

P&H recorded a turnover of £4.24bn, up 0.2%, in its latest set of accounts [y/e 3 April 2010]. Pre-exceptional EBITDA fell 5.2% to £40.2m, a decline the company put down to heavy investment in restructuring the business.