Outgoing Northern Foods chief executive Stefan Barden has sealed a surprise switch to foodservice giant Brakes.

Barden (pictured) will leave Northern next week, just a fortnight after the manufacturer announced plans to merge with chilled food giant Greencore Group. His start date at Brakes is yet to be confirmed.

Northern’s finance director, Simon Herrick, will step up to acting chief executive, with financial controller Steve Henderson filling in as finance chief. Northern said in a statement today that it expected the appointments to remain in place until the merger’s completion in the second quarter of next year.

Herrick is set to become group finance director of the combined business, which will be known as Essenta Foods. Greencore chief executive Patrick Coveney will hang on to the top job at Essenta.

“The board is grateful to Stefan for his successful leadership of the business over the past four years, which helped to facilitate the merger with Greencore,” said Northern chairman Anthony Hobson.

“Simon is well qualified to lead the business through the merger period, ably supported by the strong leaders of our branded and chilled divisions.”

Brakes has been on the lookout since August for a new figurehead to drive its £2bn UK business.

Group chief executive Philip Jansen said the capture of Barden would give the UK business dedicated leadership and enable group chief operating officer Ian Goldsmith to focus on building international operations.

“Stefan is an experienced and talented leader who will bring a great deal to our business,” Jansen said.

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