The chief executive of the company that owns beleaguered cake chain Patisserie Valerie has resigned with immediate effect.
Paul May’s departure as the boss of Patisserie Holdings comes a month after a fraud inquiry began into a multimillion-pound black hole in its finances.
He has been replaced by Steve Francis, an executive with a “proven track record of rapid operational performance improvements”.
The company’s statement was unusual in that it offered no word of thanks or tribute to Mr May, who was at the helm for 12 years.
But sources told Sky News that Mr May – a long-time business partner of the company’s chairman Luke Johnson – had made the decision to go and was not forced out.
Unveiling its new chief executive, a statement from the company said: “Since 2005, Steve has completed four successful operational turnarounds of multi-site, international businesses with revenues ranging from £2bn to £200m.
“Steve was recently CEO of Tulip Ltd, the UK’s largest integrated farmer and producer of pork, where he led the rapid return from significant losses, rebuilt the management team and completed a major growth acquisition.”
Mr Johnson said: “I am delighted to welcome Steve Francis as new CEO at Patisserie Holdings PLC.
“He has a strong track record of restoring value in turnaround situations, especially in the food industry, and the board looks forward to working with him in the revival of the business.”
Mr Johnson had told shareholders just two weeks ago that the company was “three hours” from bankruptcy as it rushed to fill a gap in its accounts.
At the time, he added that he and Mr May were reducing other work commitments to concentrate on the chain’s recovery full-time.
The entrepreneur provided £20m in new loans to keep the business going as the Serious Fraud Office continued to investigate the circumstances of the cash crunch.
The company’s finance director at the time, Chris Marsh, was arrested on suspicion of fraud and released last month.
Shares in Patisserie Holdings, which employs almost 2,500 staff at 200 shops, remain suspended.
(c) Sky News 2018: Patisserie Valerie chief executive Paul May resigns amid fraud investigation