The eponymous chairman of the Norfolk turkey food producer Bernard Matthews has announced he is to step down shortly after his 80th birthday in January, following a second consecutive year of losses at the firm.
Widely recognised throughout the UK owing to his appearances, complete with broad Norfolk accent, in the company’s television commercials, Matthews will now chair a supervisory board representing the shareholders.
The company announced yesterday it suffered a £4.4m last year, following a £77.2m loss in 2007.
Matthews, born in bred in Norfolk, founded the company in 1950 at the age of just 20. In 1955, he moved the company to its current headquarters at Great Witchingham Hall, near Norwich, where he also still lives. By 1960 Bernard Matthews had become the largest Turkey farmer in Europe. The company was publicly listed in 1971 and remained so until 2001 when the Matthews family bought it back.
After over half a century of strong performance the companies fortunes began to wane, in line with decreasing demand for turkey products. The firm gained notoriety for its Turkey Twizzlers in 2005 after Jamie Oliver very publicly slated the nutritional values of the formed meat product on his Jamie’s School Dinners television programme. Its stock plummeted further when an outbreak of the deadly H5NI avian flu virus struck one of its farms in Norfolk.
Matthews the man has been awarded a CVO and a CBE for his service with the Duke of Edinburgh Award.