Orkla has named Jaan Ivar Semlitsch as its new chief executive to replace Peter Ruzicka, who left the Norwegian food group in May after five years in the role.

Semlitsch will take up the CEO and president jobs on 1 December, and in the meantime, Terje Andersen will continue to serve in those positions in which he has served since Ruzicka’s departure on 7 May, according to a statement today (5 June).  

The incoming chief is joining the Oslo-listed firm from Dixons Carphone, where he has been CEO of its Elkjop Nordic division for more than six years and has also been in charge of Dixons’ international operations. Previously he served at Rema Industrier, Plantasjen, Statoil Retail Europe and McKinsey & Company.     

Board chairman Stein Erik Hagen said: “I am pleased that Jaan Ivar Semlitsch has accepted the position. He has 24 years of broad management experience from Nordic and international companies, and has been a highly successful chief executive of several companies. The board has unanimously concluded that Jaan Ivar is the right person to lead Orkla in the coming years.”

Ruzicka joined Orkla in 2014, joining a business looking to focus on consumer goods but which had seen that side of its operations under-perform.

Orkla saw its sales and earnings rise in each of 2015, 2016 and 2017 but, in February, after booking lower earnings and underlying sales for 2018, the company attracted criticism from parts of the investment community.

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Speaking to analysts on the day the 2018 results were published, Ruzicka said: “Out of 18 quarters, we have had actually 16 consecutive quarters with solid top- and bottom-line improvement, and we have had two very disappointing quarters. And 2019, I will promise you, will be a year where we will show you that we are able to turn this around and we will come back and continue to deliver solid performance and also to prove that our strategy is right. We are in the right categories and the actions we are taking on both top-line initiative and cost initiatives will pay off.”

Ruzicka oversaw a number of acquisitions undertaken by Orkla, including the purchase of Danish company Easyfood in December and Kotipizza Group, the largest pizza chain in Finland, a month earlier. The company also bought County Confectionery in the UK in October, Denmark’s ingredients manufacturer Igos in July, and Swedish sales and distribution company Werners Gourmetservice in May. Three other acquisitions have been announced since Ruzicka’s departure was announced.

Ruzicka pledged in November to reduce “the complexity of Orkla’s portfolio” by focusing on fewer categories, but while the company offloaded its soy sauces brand Mrs Cheng’s last year, purchases have outweighed any business disposals.