Chairman Peter Blackburn, who will assume the role of executive chairman until a replacement is found, said Stewart had left by “mutual agreement” as the company had consistently failed to meet its potential.
He said: “We have actually performed well from a sales point of view - the problem has been translating that into profit. There is no doubt we have
under-delivered in recent times.” Blackburn added that the board had come to the decision that it was time for a change in direction at the company, where profits have remained stubbornly below the £100m barrier for the fifth consecutive year, despite continued sales growth. The search is expected to take “several months”.
He added: “I would like to thank Jo for the very real contribution he has made during the15 years he has spent with the company. Northern is capable of delivering consistent growth in earnings and shareholder value. However, the board believes the company is not operating to its full potential, and we are seeking a significant improvement in performance.”
The immediate priority, said Blackburn, was pushing through raw material price increases.