Golden Wonder, which collapsed into administration this week, could be dramatically saved by three of its former executives, The Grocer has learned.
Paul Monk and Clive Sharpe, both former chief executives of Golden Wonder, along with former finance director Steve Boyd, are understood to be making a bid for the company.
Sharpe and Monk led a management buy-in of the company from its previous owners, Dalgety, for £68m in 1995, backed by Legal & General Ventures, and turned the crisps manufacturer from a loss maker to a profit making business.
Sharpe was replaced by Monk as chief executive in 2002 when the company was sold to The Snack Factory, owned by Middle East giant Longulf, as Sharpe left the business to set up his own venture capital company.
Monk left in January 2003 and has been heading his own brand development consultancy, inVentaBrand.
The men, who are understood to have signed a confidentiality agreement until any deal is made, declined to comment.
David Lang, an analyst at Investec, said an entrepreneur was the most likely to buy the company. “There is not a shortage of aspirant food manufacturers, and there will be someone who thinks they can revive the company.”
Golden Wonder, which employs 850 staff, had suffered years of falling sales under pressure from arch rival manufacturer Walkers and overcapacity within its own label business, despite efforts to restructure the company.
Led by chief executive Ed Jackson, Golden Wonder shut its own label plant at Skelmersdale in 2004 but failed to stop the decline in its business, reporting losses of £10.8m in the year to December 31, 2004.
The company has already moved its own label operation from Corby - once the biggest crisp manufacturing plant in the world - to Scunthorpe.
Corby will still produce the Golden Lights range.
Administrator Kroll said that it was looking to sell the £90m turnover business, which also has a head office at Market Harborough, as a going concern.
However, it is likely that bids will be only for the Scunthorpe site, which produces the main brands Nik Naks, Wheat Crunchies and Ringos.
According to The Grocer’s Top Product Survey (December 17), the bagged snacks category fell in value by 1.2 % for the year ending October 1, 2005 [ACNielsen] due to concerns over its perceived contribution to the UK’s obesity crisis.
Nik Naks was the only Golden Wonder product to appear in the top 20 list of bagged snack brands, and recorded a sales drop of 6.5% compared with the previous year as its value tumbled to £17.3m at the till.
>>p29 Golden blunders
Stefan Chomka