Inter Link said last week that illness had forced its executive chairman, Alwin Thompson, to retire with immediate effect.

Thompson, who founded Inter Link in 1994, had seen a steady decline in his health over the last year, said former deputy chairman Jeremy Hamer, who has become non-executive chairman following his departure. Hamer told British Baker that Thompson decided to retire on medical advice.

He said: "Under Alwin’s leadership the company became one of the leading AIM success stories and his legacy must now be built on by his successors. This is a sad day for Inter Link Foods but Alwin’s priority must be his health."

Alwin Thompson’s departure follows a troubled 12 months for Inter Link. Chief executive Paul Griffiths left in October, with Chris Thompson, formerly group finance director, appointed his successor. A new finance director is due to be appointed next month.

In January, the Blackburn-based baker announced it had seen poor sales in the hot summer and a difficult start at a new central distribution centre.

One analyst said the turmoil may leave Inter Link open to a takeover bid. Another said: "Rival Manor Bakeries is getting itself sorted out, which has made life a lot harder for Inter Link. And with the moves to integrate its various bakeries, the pressure has been on."