Premier Foods has appointed former Uniq boss Geoff Eaton as COO as the beleaguered conglomerate announced an overhauled corporate structure this week.
The hire follows the departure of Tim Kelly amid a management reshuffle last October, and sees Eaton reunited with Premier’s general counsel and company secretary Andrew MacDonald, who joined last year after holding the same position at Uniq.
Premier said Eaton would have a wider remit than Kelly, styling his arrival as an injection of new blood into the business.
He will be an executive director, reporting to CEO Michael Clarke, and will help oversee Premier’s plans to divide into two distinct divisions - grocery and bread - to become “more focused and profitable”. He will also be expected to deliver further overhead cost reductions which the company is targeting next year - above the £40m it is expecting by the end of this year.
Eaton has a strong track record in restructuring, helping Uniq pull back from the brink by offloading 90% of its shares to its pension fund to overcome a £436m deficit before completing a break-up and disposal of the company to Greencore.
Investec analyst Martin Deboo said Eaton offer “a useful, relevant skill set” but cautioned that role proliferation was “a concern” in a cost-constrained environment.
Eaton also knows Premier’s Rank Hovis McDougall (RHM) brands, such as Hovis, Bisto and Mr Kipling, well. He spent 13 years at Tomkins, which offloaded RHM to private equity firm Doughty Hanson in 2000 before it was floated in 2005 and acquired by Premier the following year.
“He has a great strategic viewpoint and is a good motivator and team player,” added one senior industry source.