Bernard Matthews saved with ‘pre-pack’ sale to food entrepreneur as pensioners lose out

The company, known for the “bootiful” catchphrase, was named after its charismatic founder, who died in 2010, aged 80, was put up for sale in June by Rutland Partners, a private equity investor, has been bought by Ranjit Boparan, the tycoon behind Harry Ramsden’s restaurants and Goodfella’s pizzas.

Rutland Partners, which also owns Pizza Hut and the electronics chain Maplin, bought Bernard Matthews, Europe’s largest turkey producer, in 2013.

Whilst the company has reassured the 2,000 strong workforce that their roles were safe hundreds of members of the Bernard Matthews defined benefit scheme, which is said to have a deficit of approximately £16m will have their retirement payments cut as the retirement scheme has been passed on to an industry-backed safety net for the pensions of insolvent companies.

Frank Field – who has led calls for former BHS chief executive Sir Philip Green to rectify the black hole in that company’s pension fund – spoke out against the deal which and has called on regulators to intervene against the “dumping” of a retirement scheme for current and former workers at Bernard Matthews, the turkey producer, as part of a takeover deal.

“The new employer must not be allowed to get away with dumping the Bernard Matthews pension scheme into which workers have paid,” Field told Sky News.

“The Pensions Regulator needs to act robustly and quickly to stop such activities being mimicked by other asset buyers who wish to dump pension liabilities.

“We cannot have firms changing ownership at the price of pensions being dumped with the Pension Protection Fund – such dumping involves promises being broken, and the cuts in benefit that result.”