UK shortbread producer Walkers Shortbread is conducting a boadroom shake-up, with Peter Simpson stepping down as chairman.

Simpson officially ceased to be chairman on 30 November, with Michael J. Walker taking over as non-executive chairman with effect from 1 December.

The company said the changes would strengthen the board to meet "the increasing needs of the growing business, and its gradual transition to the next generation".

Simpson is to remain with the company as a non-executive director to assist in the integration of a raft of new appointments.

Michael Walker, who is not related to the Walker family which owns the company, was formerly chairman and managing partner at the Scottish law of Maclay Murray & Spens. 

He is currently chairman of London-based financial PR company Broadgate Marketing, a non-executive director of Cornelian Asset Managers Limited, and also sits on the board of Scottish Amicable.

Meanwhile, Nicky Walker, who is the son of joint managing director Joseph Walker, has been appointed to the board as production director. The company said that Nicky Walker will in time take over many of the responsibilities from his father who has been in sole charge of production and all relevant issues since joining the company in the 1950s.

Richard Walker has been named as technical director. Richard Walker joined the company in 1994, and was initially involved in the quality assurance department before moving on to several other areas to gain experience. For the last six years, he has been responsible for developing and launching a range of traditional and innovative products.

The company has also announced the appointment of David Edwards as financial director, which marks the first non-family executive director appointment the company has made. Edwards qualified as a chartered accountant with KPMG in 1985, and has for the past 20 years worked in the brewing industry, joining Walker from Scottish & Newcastle.

Ken Fraser has been named as company secretary. Fraser joined the company in 1982 as financial controller.