Like the Mounties, Premier Foods today finally got its man.
Mike Clarke comes on board in September as the company’s new chief executive, having quit his job as Kraft’s European boss earlier in the week.
In saying yes where Martin Glenn of Birds Eye Iglo reportedly said no, he’s taking on one of the toughest jobs in grocery. In fact, Investec analyst Martin Deboo said today that Clarke had “taken on just about the biggest challenge that European grocery has to offer”.
“Clarke will need to simultaneously revive Premier’s near-term trading performance, re-stimulate its long-term brand equities and innovation pipeline, rebuild the confidence of its customers, suppliers and investors – and continue the restructuring of its balance sheet and funding arrangements,” he said.
He’ll also have to beware the danger of what Deboo called “Kraftian group-think” as he works alongside Premier chairman Ronnie Bell, another alumnus of the US group.
That’s quite a to-do list – but the task of whipping the bloated conglomerate into shape is surely not impossible.
Adam Leyland recently pointed to the “embarrassing” ease with which Quorn’s new owners injected some meat-free momentum into that business. And Premier’s new boss was not being overly optimistic today when he pointed to the “powerful portfolio of brands” still at his disposal.
Either way, that’s now a Clarke at the helm of the UK’s biggest food manufacturer, as well as its two biggest retailers. And unlike his namesake at Tesco, Premier’s Clarke is not taking over from a living legend.
From here, his shareholders will be praying, the only way is up.