Australia’s Costa Group Holdings has appointed its chief operations officer as deputy chief executive following a takeover offer from a private-equity firm last week.

Marc Werner will take up the role of deputy CEO at the fresh produce group as the current interim CEO Harry Debney will be “devoting considerable time on the potential acquisition process”, according to a filing made with the Australian Securities Exchange.

Debney’s time as interim CEO has been extended to the end of the year as well, off the back of last week’s move from Paine Schwartz Partners to buy Costa’s shares. The New York-headquartered firm already owns 13.8% of the avocado group.

Debney stepped in as interim chief executive last September when then-CEO Sean Hallahan resigned from the role.

As a result of these changes, the Australian group has halted its CEO recruitment process, planning on revisiting the search once there is “greater certainty” regarding the Paine Schwartz Partners offer.

Costa chairman Neil Chatfield said: “We remain appreciative of Harry’s efforts since being appointed as interim CEO and believe that Marc’s appointment will reinforce and ensure the ongoing focus on operational performance and free up Harry to concentrate on our strategic direction.”

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Chatfield added Werner joined Costa with “considerable experience” after a 22-year stint at BMW and then a period as an executive director for Deloitte.

“Since his appointment as Costa’s COO in September 2022, Marc has proven himself to be an exceptionally talented senior Executive, overseeing the improvement in Costa’s 2PH citrus performance and developing an intimate knowledge of all aspects of Costa’s domestic business.”

The group’s filing to ASX added that all business unit general managers, including for the international business, will report to Werner in his new role.