UPDATE 1-Gavin Darby replaces Clarke at Premier Foods

Mon Jan 28, 2013 2:50am EST

LONDON Jan 28 (Reuters) - Premier Foods PLC, the maker of Hovis bread and Mr Kipling cakes, appointed Gavin Darby as chief executive on Monday, replacing Michael Clarke who steps down after less than 18 months in the role.

Darby, who most recently was chief executive of Cable and Wireless Worldwide, will be tasked with continuing to improve Premier's balance sheet, the group said in a statement.

Clarke sold businesses including Sarson's vinegar and Branston pickle to bring down 1.3 billion pounds ($2 billion) of debt built up before the 2007 banking crisis, and initiated a shake-up at its bread division.

He will step down from the board with immediate effect, Premier said on Monday, and Darby, who engineered the sale of Cable & Wireless Worldwide last year to Vodafone, will take over on Feb. 4.