Trading performance at British brands powerhouse Premier Foods was at its worst when Andrew McDonald joined as general counsel in 2011 from food manufacturer Uniq.
A year later and McDonald has helped the company raise more than £370m – well ahead of Premier’s target of £330m by 2014 – by leading its legal team through a number of divestments – which so far include the sale of Sarson’s vinegar, Branston sweet pickle, Hartley’s jams and Elephant Atta flour – in a bid to cut the company’s debt mountain from a whopping £1.27bn.
Despite Premier’s lawyers working at the centre of the food maker’s recovery plan, with legal responsibilities including terms of purchase, brand protection, advertising and product development, McDonald then had to find a way to cut Premier’s legal budget. The cuts – part of a company-wide efficiency drive – saw McDonald and his five-lawyer team take most of Premier’s commercial work in-house.
“If I had to pick out a highlight [from last year] it would definitely be the delivery of a successful divestment programme,” McDonald says. “This is at the same time as growing our eight core ‘power’ brands [including Mr Kipling, Hovis bread and Ambrosia creamed rice] and restructuring the business. We’ve now got stability and we’re at a terrific place to focus on trading.”