The Greggs boss who led a successful campaign against the Government's "pasty tax" earlier this year is to step down from the high street bakery.
Chief executive Ken McMeikan rallied customers with a 300,000-strong petition against plans to charge 20% VAT on its hot pasties and sausage rolls, prompting Chancellor George Osborne to overturn the tax plans.
Mr McMeikan, who replaced long-standing Greggs boss Sir Michael Darrington in 2008, will now take the top job at catering group Brakes. He was the architect of a drive to modernise the group, and shares in Newcastle-based Greggs fell 3% today on news of his planned departure.
Shore Capital analyst Clive Black said: "We cannot hide our disappointment for Greggs shareholders on the announcement of Mr McMeikan's resignation.
He credited Mr McMeikan with a more efficient supply chain and creating a fit-for-purpose retail estate, including 28 franchise stores in Moto service stations and shops in locations such as bus and train stations.
Brakes has been owned by Bain Capital, which was founded by US presidential candidate Mitt Romney, since 2007. It is one of the largest food suppliers to the catering industry in the UK, Ireland and France and also operates in Sweden.
Greggs, which has 1,600 shops in the UK, said Mr McMeikan will stay in a board position for an interim period while the company looks for a successor.
Chairman Derek Netherton said Mr McMeikan had led the company through the major changes that had put Greggs in a strong position for the future, with a clear strategy for growth in a difficult environment.
The group said there had been no significant change to trading since October when it warned it no longer expected underlying sales growth in its Christmas quarter. Like-for-like sales fell 2.6% in the 14 weeks to October 6 and Greggs said it had been hit by rising food prices and the continuing "restraint" of high street shoppers.
Mr McMeikan said: "There are many exciting growth opportunities ahead for the business and the team are well placed to deliver them."