Let Mr Kipling in-housers eat cake

Premier Foods counsel help in business turnaround, then set up academy 

The in-house lawyers at Premier Foods, the British food maker behind Mr Kipling, Hovis bread and Ambrosia creamed rice, prove you can have your cake and eventually eat it. 

Last year was no easy ride for Premier’s five-strong legal team. Faced with helping Premier reduce its £1.27bn debt mountain, general counsel Andrew McDonald advised on the sale of Branston Pickle, Sarson’s vinegar, Hartleys jams and Elephant Atta flour while cutting legal costs and taking most of the commercial work in-house. 

Having helped the business smash through its target to raise £330m by 2014, the team have been able to shift some of their focus from corporate M&A to internal growth. The group is not only taking on its second trainee come September but has also launched a business academy.

In partnership with Henley Business School, the 18-month programme involves putting the cherry on top of CVs, with seminars ranging from The Language of Leadership to The Art of Persuasion. Quite the French Fancy. 

“One of our aims was to ensure the business saw us as a commercial partner while being able to speak its language,” says legal counsel Helen Selby. “The business now chooses to involve us at an earlier stage in transactions. We’re seen as a business partner, value-adding at each stage.” 

Nationwide Building Society has a similar programme but the story here is that, after working hard to turn the business around, the legal Premier team have finally been able to eat their cake.