Chr Hansen chairman of the board of directors Jens Bigum has announced his intention to step down once the group's annual report and accounts are formally approved in December.
Bigum, who was appointed chairman of the board of Chr. Hansen in connection with the sale of the company last summer to the private equity firm PAI Partners, said that the timing was right.
"I certainly like Chr. Hansen and am very sorry to have to say goodbye, but at the same time I feel that the company is strong enough for me to leave the board in an orderly manner," he said.
"We have had a good transitional phase, established a strong new management team and I enjoy a good relationship with PAI. Given that things are also going well for the company, the timing is right."
Chr Hansen shareholders gave the green light for private equity firm PAI partners to take over the food ingredients arm of Chr Hansen in June last year. At an Extraordinary General Meeting, stakeholders in the world's number one culture maker cleared the way for PAI to pay €1.1 billion for the business.
The deal exceeded expectations, with the private equity company buying on a price to sales of 2.2 times. Chr Hansen felt that the new owner could bring cash and with it strong opportunities for growth through acquisitions.
Bigum said that he intends to focus on other responsibilities, notably as chairman of Arhus University. Following the pending university reform, Arhus University will be one of six expanded universities in Denmark, requiring greater work commitment.
"The work involved in ensuring the successful implementation of the pending university reform means I have to prioritise Arhus University more," said Bigum.
"As the post of chairman of the board of directors of Chr. Hansen is the most recent major commitment I have taken upon myself, I have therefore agreed with the other board members in good time that I will resign my position."
Frederic Stevenin from PAI said that the next chairman would likely be recruited from outside the group.
"We are, of course, sorry to hear of Jens Bigums decision and would like to thank him for all his efforts," he said.
"During the recent transitional period, it was vital to have at the helm someone so experienced and familiar with the industry. Given that everything is going well with Chr. Hansen, we will consider the need for an external chairman of the board."
Preliminary indications for the current financial year (September 05 August 06) point to a good performance for Chr Hansen, which expects to close the year with a sales growth of about 10 per cent and growth in earnings of about 30 per cent.
PAI is not the first, and certainly not the last, private equity firm to invest in the stable European food and drink industry. According to a report from 3i, private equity and venture capital invested in Europe's food and drink companies nearly doubled from €2.7 billion in 2001 to €4.5 billion in 2002.
The largest industrial sector in the EU, with a turnover of €799 billion in 2003 on 1.9 per cent growth on the previous year, the food and drink industry is attracting new investors through private equity.