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.