Iceland Foods has appointed a new chairman after Jon Asgeir Johanneson stepped down to defend himself against a lawsuit.

Johanneson is replaced by another Icelander – Baldvin Valtysson, head of the London office of Icelandic bank Landsbanki, who has been a non-executive director of the frozen food retailer since June 2008.

Johanneson is fighting allegations of leading a “conspiracy” to siphon money from Glitnir bank, in which he was the biggest investor, before its collapse in October 2008.

“I am delighted to welcome Baldvin Valtysson to his new role as our chairman, and I and the rest of the Iceland Foods management team look forward to continuing to work with him to pursue our successful strategy of the last five years,” said Iceland chief executive Malcolm Walker.

“We are sorry that Jón Ásgeir has been obliged to step down to focus on defending himself against the recent lawsuit lodged against him in New York, and in the light of the related action taken to freeze his assets in the UK.”

Johanneson was the founder of Baugur, which bought shares in UK companies including Debenhams, Woolworths, House of Fraser, Hamleys, Karen Millen, Whistles and Marks & Spencer before falling into administration.

Baugur led a buy-out of Iceland that took the retailer private again, and reappointed its founder, Walker, as its boss.

“We will always be hugely grateful to Jón Ásgeir for everything he has done to make the amazing Iceland Foods recovery story possible, for the faith he placed in me and the rest of the returning senior management team, and for his contribution to our board since 2005,” Walker added.

Read more
Vibrant sales, a growing estate: Iceland is back (3 April 2010)
Iceland boss Walker under fire in supply code row (5 February 2010)