Premier Foods chief operating officer Geoff Eaton has left the company - on the same day the new CEO started work.

The shock announcement follows the appointment of Gavin Darby as chief executive, replacing Michael Clarke who resigned last weekend.

In a statement issued this afternoon, Premier said it was implementing a “flatter executive management structure” that would enable commercial and functional management to report directly to the CEO.

“As a consequence of this new structure, the role of chief operating officer will cease to exist,” said the statement. “It has therefore been agreed with Geoff Eaton, current chief operating officer, that he will step down from the board of directors with immediate effect and will leave the company.”

The departure of Eaton after just four months in the role is the latest in a string of management shake-ups at the business, including the announcement in November that MD Iwan Williams was leaving the business.

Darby, who was most recently chief executive officer of Cable & Wireless, thanked Eaton for his contribution and wished himwell in his future career. “I very much look forward to working with the management team to continue the transformation of Premier Foods,” he added.

Eaton, formerly COO at Uniq, was brought in to help oversee Premier’s plans to divide into two distinct divisions - grocery and bread. The grocery division is currently overseen by Ian Deste in the role of commercial director, while the bread business, which includes the Hovis brand and own-label contracts, is run by Bob Spooner, MD for bread and group supply chain director.