The appointment will be effective from 1st February 2016 and follows approval from First Milk members in December for a leaner and more commercial Board structure.
Sharpe has had a career in food manufacturing spanning 35 years and is a former chairman of Quorn Foods and Burtons Biscuits, former non-executive director of Duerr's jams and Tangerine Confectionery, and former CEO of WT Foods, Golden Wonder and Homepride Foods. He is currently chairman of Peters Foods.
Nigel Evans, First Milk's interim Chair and Farmer Director said,
"Clive is a highly experienced commercial leader with a track record of leading transformational change across a variety of branded and private label businesses. He is highly regarded and well connected across UK Retail and has substantial experience as a chairman, executive, and non-executive. This is a key appointment as we implement a leaner and more commercial structure as part of the transformation of First Milk."
Mike Gallacher, CEO said,
"I am looking forward to working closely with Clive who brings a wealth of commercial and leadership experience to the new First Milk team. The business has made rapid progress in difficult circumstances over the last nine months and this appointment, together with accompanying changes in our Board structure will strengthen our cooperative for the long term. The pace of change will continue as we reshape First Milk to deliver for our farmer members."
Clive Sharpe added,
"Mike Gallacher and the First Milk Board have set a clear direction for the business, and a huge amount of progress has been made over the last nine months. I am attracted by the potential of First Milk and the opportunity to get the company working well for its farmer owners."
Reshaping First Milk
Following the arrival of the new CEO, Mike Gallacher, at the end of March 2015, First Milk has implemented a turnaround plan, following a number of years of poor business performance.
The company has made a number of heavyweight appointments over this the last six months, including Kenny Bain (group operations director, ex Unilever, ABF, Mars), Brian Mackie (chief operating officer, ex Starbev/Molson Coors Europe, Maxxium Worldwide, Cott Corporation), and Carl Ravenhall (non-executive director, former MD of Müller UK, Milk Link & Adams Foods).
Actions taken to significantly reduce costs, improve quality, and drive operational performance have fed through into an improved financial position. Operating profits of £1.1m were delivered for the six months to 30 September 2015, an improvement of £8.7m on the prior year. Debt has also continued to reduce, and at the end of November 2015 was £39.7m, compared to £60.7m as at March 2015. First Milk concluded refinancing the business with support from its current banks in December.
Following the completion of a full strategy review over the summer, the company announced the sale of its Glenfield Dairy business based in Fife, Scotland to Graham's the Family Dairy in November.
Approval by members of Governance / Board changes in mid-December will lead to a smaller, more commercial Board and the establishment of a new Farmer Council.